Gum graft surgery thoughts?

  I had a consultation with a periodontist and he recommended gum grafts on a bunch of teeth throughout my mouth. I was wondering if anyone has experiences with gum grafts. I'm interested in any thoughts you have about the procedure, but also I have a few specific questions:

1) I'm considering getting them all done at once so I don't have to go through the trouble of having surgery multiple times. Has anyone had experience doing that? Do you have thoughts about that idea?

2) My husband heard from someone he trusts that "gum grafts are a scam". Have you heard that before? Is there scientific evidence in favor of having the procedure done?

3) Are there new technologies that I should request or research? 

Thank you!

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RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I've had gum grafts, and have done them twice where they took skin from the roof of my mouth. I'm not sure that doing multiple teeth at once would be any worse - it might be better. At the time it didn't make sense for me since I didn't think I'd need it again. 

I haven't heard the scam part but I have no idea! It's definitely pricey and wasn't covered by my insurance. 

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

Hey, I had some gum grafts! I did not do it all at once, I did it in 2 parts - and insurance covered 90% of it each time. My periodontist, knowing the ways of insurance, suggested doing it that way - it was in 2 separate calendar years so my insurance "reset." 

I did initially go to a "top" periodontist in SF, who basically suggested I get grafts all over my mouth and then quoted something like $18k. I was all, hard pass, gotta send my kid to college. But I got a second opinion, told him what the first guy said, and he told me, look, you really only need it near 6 teeth and also acknowledged the first guy I went to tends to "up sell."

If your gums recede too much, your teeth can suffer, the roots of your teeth are not protected by the same enamel as the parts of your teeth that are normally outside your gums.

The whole procedure is a little barbaric, but didn't hurt much during or after... just having stitches in my mouth drives me nuts. I highly recommend my doctor: Ryan Horn, http://www.berkeleyperioimplants.com/About-Us/Meet-Our-Team 

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I can only speak from experience. I had just one graft done above a bridge where my gum was shrinking. I went to a reputable periodontist. A couple of years later, it is pretty unsightly. It doesn't look anything like natural gum. It's puffy and odd-looking (and visible). A good friend and her husband each had several gum grafts, also by a reputable periodontist, and they have the same puffy lumps all over their gums. Also, my mouth was sore for quite awhile after just one graft. I can't imagine doing several at once. Whether it's a scam or not, I can't address.

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

My dentist, whom our family saw for 30 years and trusted, had been nagging me about gum grafts for a long time, and I finally got them several years ago, in my early 60s. There were four spots, and it took four separate procedures, spaced out over about 18 months, because 1) recovery from several gum grafts at a time would be quite painful, and perhaps impossible, given that the grafts are taken from various spots in your mouth and then stuck onto new spots (you need a non-tender area in order to eat!), and 2) my insurance would pay for more of it when the procedures were spread over two years. I've no idea how you would research gum graft's validity, and the latest procedures, but presumably you trust your dentist and s/he would tell you where to go.

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I've had two gum grafts done (I had a lot of orthodontia which contributed to this). I had one done in the front and one done on the side. I HIGHLY recommend that you do not do them all at once. You will be so uncomfortable and in pain, you will not be able to eat at all. They take skin from the roof of your mouth and then graft it on the gums that need it. You need to have at least one side of the mouth not sore/swollen so you can chew.

I don't personally believe they are a scam. My gums were visibly receding, and in one case, was actually bothering me (hot and cold food was an issue). Since having them done, My gums look and feel healthy and fine. I should note that one I had ~15 years ago, one last year. There are new technologies, including being put in a twilight sleep for it. I had my first w/o and saw (reflection of the dr's glasses) and heard everything...! This last one I did not which, aside from the IV, was preferable. 

Make sure you opt for the retainer for the roof of your mouth. Yes, it costs more but your comfort while eating will greatly improve. 

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I'm no expert, so take this with a grain of salt, but having had gum grafts myself I do kind of think they're a scam. I had a dentist who scared me into them about 16 years ago - basically told me my teeth were going to fall out any day if I didn't have them done. I had them all done at once, and it wasn't too bad - not fun, but not as painful as I was led to believe, and it was definitely better to get it all over with at once than have multiple recovery periods. However, within a year or two my gums were back to exactly how they had been, and honestly haven't changed much in the time since then. I have some recession, fairly serious in a couple spots, but no pain or problems. I have accepted that this is just how my gums are and have focused on maintenance and keeping everything clean and healthy, and I don't think I would consider grafts again.

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I had gum graft surgery several years ago and now need again for the other half of my mouth. I would say getting it done all at once might be good? Though it's VERY hard to chew for quite some time so the recovery might be challenging. The surgery itself is painless, especially if you opt for the twilight sleep anasthesia option. 

In general, I found the recovery to be harder than advertised. It was nothing but soft foods for about a week? Which honestly is kind of crazy making (basically just smoothies, broths or things totally blended). I was black and blue with bruising for awhile so returning to work was tough because I looked terrible (maybe a good one to get done if you're still able to work remote?). But! It was successful and my teeth are much less sensitive and seem to be more firmly in place. After a few weeks I could eat normally again but it was a slow process on that side. 

That's interesting that your husband heard they were a scam? I'd never heard that. I'm loathe to get it done again so I'll do some more research -- would love to never have to go through it again honestly. My periodontist in NYC was pretty well respected though so I kind of doubt that it's a scam?  

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I had two gum grafts maybe 20 years ago. My dentist more-or-less ordered me to get them because of bone recession stemming from earlier poor care and bruxism. They can't replace lost bone, but the extra gum tissue protects the remaining bone.

I liked the surgeon (who has since retired). The surgery involved moving some connective tissue from the top of my mouth to the gum. Post-surgery, I had a waxy material applied over the surgery sites for a few days, and I was limited to soupy foods. There was residual numbness in the top of my mouth that has never completely disappeared, but doesn't bother me. One of the places where there were sutures in the top of my mouth sometimes gets slightly irritated.  My gums where the grafts were done look fine.  There is an area in my mouth where there hasn't been a gum graft and the roots of those teeth are quite exposed (hence the term "long in the tooth").  If my dentist says to get a graft done in that area, I would have no hesitation.

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I have a bunch of teeth that need / needed gum grafting. I did one side of my mouth (half) all at once. I intended to do the other side the following year, but then life happened and then COVID, so I still haven’t done it. I couldn’t do it all at once because they use the skin from the roof of your mouth for the graft and there is only so much. 

Was it worth it? I don’t know. My dentist seems to think it made a big difference. I guess my teeth are a little less sensitive too. It wasn’t a terrible procedure or anything - and there was only a week or two of recovery. It definitely wasn’t life changing enough for me to be motivated to prioritize getting the other side done, but I’ll probably eventually do it.

I didn’t really research the scientific evidence at the time. It wasn’t cheap, so maybe I should do that before round two of gum grafting.

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I have had gum grafts. I chose to split them up due to cost. I didn’t end up getting the second one because the new dentist I switched to said it wasn’t necessary. So I would recommend getting a second opinion from a dentist since they are not incentivized in the matter. Rincon Dental is great and he’ll give you his honest opinion. Highly recommend. 

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

FYI I had gum grafts done approximately 20 years ago in a single procedure, multiple teeth, upper and lower.   Procedure and recovery not as difficult or unpleasant as I had feared, and my gums have been fine since.   I really trust my dentist, and she had referred me to a periodontist with a lot of experience with the procedure.  The periodontist used my own tissue for the grafts, not cadaver tissue.  No regrets!

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

My husband had gum surgery for periodontal disease after seeing a "brilliant" highly lauded UCSF periodontist. Fast forward 3 years, and he still had "diseased" gums. This periodontist, who has published many articles in scholarly journals, wanted my husband to do the surgery all over again, and pull some teeth as well. That is when my husband decided to abandon the whole regime. Periodontics seem mired in the Dark Ages. Cutting away gums smacks of barbarism; if you have an infection in your finger, do you cut it off? Furthermore, they don't actually know for certain what causes one person to have gum disease and another not to: bacteria may not be the root cause. (so to speak). I urge you to do research, as it seems you are, and consider carefully.

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

i have done this on both sides, don't do together since you will be drinking out of a straw for weeks. it hurts a lot.  the price is very high and i would say about 50% of them failed and i still have very poor gums. i am not sure i would do again, but the surgeons and dentists still seem to think these are necessary treatments

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I have had gum grafts multiple times. I was under the impression that they only last 5 years or so (hence the redo) but I don’t know, maybe that makes it a scam. In any case, it is unpleasant, but not horrible. As far as your questions:

1. I usually get 2 done on one side and then do the other two a separate time. This helps with chewing, cleaning, etc. Your mouth will be out of commission for longer than you think, and you can’t brush near the surgery for something like a week or two. Also, I prefer to do one at the end of a calendar year and the other at the beginning of the next year so the insurance covers more. 
 

3. you can have them take the graft from the roof of your mouth or you can use cadaver tissue. If you go full zombie (cadaver) it is a little less painful, but not a deal breaker IMO. Either way, expect more pain and longer duration of pain than what they tell you. Definitely take the anti-inflammatories or you will be miserable. 
 

good luck and feel free to reach out to me off line if you want. 

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

My father had pretty serious gum recession and underwent two gum graft surgeries. My father is a physician and pretty suspicious of unnecessary medical procedures (for example, he advised me against wisdom teeth removal since I never had and still haven't had active pathology or pain). His oral surgeon used the technique where tissue is taken from the roof of the mouth, so it was done in steps in order to allow the tissue to grow back enough to be harvested again. Before getting the surgery he considered other alternatives, but the recession was enough that he was already experiencing a lot of sensitivity and at risk for damage to the underlying bone. He wasn't keen to have a mouth of fake teeth so he did the surgeries. Years later, he no longer has sensitive teeth and his teeth are all still there.

 I would highly recommend talking to your personal dentist about whether the surgery is appropriate given your particular condition. If you don't trust the periodontist you consulted with, maybe you should seek out someone who you feel more confident in to make recommendations.

As to whether gum grafts surgery is a "scam" I would definitely ask that trusted person for details on their stance. Some people get gum grafts for cosmetic purposes, which seems odd to me given the invasiveness of the procedure, but to each their own and that is very different than medically indicated surgery to protect the health of your teeth. I'm always skeptical of any wholesale statements that something is always good or always bad, especially when it comes to medical procedures. The answer is almost always "it depends," which again points to making sure you have a health professional that you trust to make treatment recommendations and support you in decision-making.

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

Get a second and even third opinion. I have had a dentist tell me that he recommended unnecessary procedures so he could make more money. Unbelievable!

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

My periodontist recommended gum grafts in several different areas. I have been spreading them out over several years for financial reasons. It's been a few years since my last one, but as far as I recall, it wasn't that bad. The area from my palate where the graft came from was more painful than the site where they grafted it to, but I don't think it was terrible. I'm not sure how it would be to do multiple areas at once. I've never heard they are a scam. I do really trust my periodontist and I have a lot of fear of losing teeth so I have just gone with it. Good luck!  

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

I am 47 years old. About 25 years ago, my dentist told me I urgently needed gum grafts on a lower front tooth that was protruding due to crowding (and therefore "pushing" the gum down on that one tooth). I was in grad school and couldn't afford it, so put it off. About 10 years ago, my current dentist made the same recommendation. Again, I can't really afford it, so after seeing a periodontist for a consult, I put it off. Absolutely NOTHING has changed in my mouth! The warnings about tooth sensitivity, my tooth falling out, etc. have not come to pass. It's been decades! It makes me think you should definitely get a second or third opinion before going through an expensive, painful procedure that sounds like it also has downsides.

RE: Gum graft surgery thoughts? ()

When I was around 30 years old I was advised by my ostentatiously wealthy dentist that my gums had developed pockets/recession as a result of aggressive brushing, and that the only solution was a gum graft which should be performed as soon as possible to prevent imminent tooth loss. This was a procedure which my dentist was not qualified to perform, so he referred me to his associate, a dental surgeon. I was examined by his friend who concurred with the need. They told me the source of the replacement gums (some dead person), that the replacements would be a different color, and they told me the cost. Being young, concerned about my appearance, and unwealthy, I deferred the surgery, switched from a medium brush to a soft brush, and became more careful of my gums when brushing.

In the past 30 years I've been a patient of 3 or 4 competent dentists. ALL have examined my (very healthy, no cavities, no losses) teeth carefully, including measuring pocket depth. I've never mentioned my gum recession diagnosis to any of them, and none of them have ever suggested that I need to do anything differently (well, I should floss) or a need for any surgery. I'm obviously not familiar with your situation, but it seems obvious now that this former dentist and his friend were advising me to do unnecessary surgery. I'd suggest you bite the bullet and get another opinion.