Gum Grafts – they really aren’t so bad!

When you start Google searching any sort of medical procedure, all you’ll find are people with bad experiences (usually due to complications, or self inflicted by not following proper recovery recommendations). Rarely will you find a good news story, or anything to put your anxiety and stress at ease (after all, that’s probably one of the biggest reasons you’re Google searching it in the first place!).

I recently had a Gum Graft on a couple teeth, and I fell into that bucket above. For the weeks leading up to the surgery I was reading every blog post, forum post, discussion thread, you name it, that I could find about the procedure. All I found were horror stories of people comparing it to being “worse than child birth!!”, “the most painful medical procedure they’ve ever had done!!”, or talking about how they “bled for days!”. three weeks after mine, I figure the internet needs some good news stories on this procedure too.

It’s not that bad.

Surgery Time

The prick of the freezing needle was honestly one of the “worst” parts of the procedure, and that wasn’t even bad as far as pain goes (they applied a numbing cream on the needle sites prior to freezing). I’ve had dental cleanings where I’ve had more pain from the picking and scratching of my teeth than I had from the freezing needle that kicked off my graft procedure.

During the procedure, I closed my eyes, went to my happy place, and hardly noticed a thing. Sure I could tell that fingers and tools were in and out of my mouth, and I’d feel occasional light pressure of “things going on” in there, but virtually no pain. The second worst part I’d say was the incision in my palette for the donor tissue – they have to use a fair bit of pressure for this incision, and I think my nearby sinuses weren’t a fan of that and felt tingly for a bit. I think my brain just made a mental image of pressure + roof of mouth and made me more uncomfortable than I really needed to be.

Post Op

The first day wasn’t fun, I will say that.  I took my pain pills, but still had a very, very uncomfortable pain that was pushing through the pills still too. I watched TV, closed my eyes a bit, and finally got onto some soft foods by the evening. Then, just as fast as it came, my pain started to let up really fast too. By bed I was completely pain free, though obviously still quite uncomfortable from the swelling and bruising. I took a precautionary pain pill before bed, but probably wouldn’t have needed it at all.

The first 3-4 days of sleeping at night was kind of crappy – I just couldn’t get comfortable and kept having to resist the urge to roll over and sleep how I normally do (on the side that had the graft!).

During the day, I took it easy for about 4 days following surgery. I had two days off work, and then two days working from home. If I talked too much, or following a meal when I use moving my mouth a lot, I found I’d get a bit of an ache in the surgery site. Smiling and laughing were out of the question – those moved things just a bit too much and would cause some pain. The trick here is just don’t move the area for the first while, the longer the better. You have new gum tissue that needs to heal and meld into the tissue around it, and the less that moves while the new blood vessels are forming, the better!

Surgery was on a Tuesday – by Saturday I was back at things with my volunteer gig and was able to be relatively social as the day went on too.

Despite being comfortable again, I still had to keep to a modified diet. No biting or chewing or doing anything that could impact or move against that new gum site. Although the soft tissue heals quite fast, the thick gum tissue takes significantly longer to heal.

Follow-up Time

One day before my two week follow-up appointment, the putty-like surgical dressing fell off my gum site. The surgeon said to expect this at any point in the first two weeks, and I was happy mine lasted so long! At the follow-up appointment the next day he removed the top dressing and any remaining stitches that were hanging around. I’m told that if that drop dressing falls off too fast that you can be left with the feeling of a bad pizza burn up there for a while.

I was given two thumbs up – he was very happy with how things healed! I had two more weeks (making for a total of a month since this all started) until I was allowed to resume completely normal eating and brushing (unless I felt pain or discomfort in doing so). I had been brushing all along from day two, just avoiding the surgical site, which I now had a special extra soft (like brushing with a cloud) toothbrush to use when cleaning that area.

How do things feel now?

As soon as that top dressing came off, I felt the roof of my mouth with my tongue and it felt weird. The area the tissue was taken from was all bumpy and had a ditch-like feeling in the middle where the missing tissue was healing in. With the dressing off, much to my surprise, it took less than 48 hours before this area smoothed out completely! Now a week after, I can’t tell this area from the rest of the roof of my mouth.

The gum area feels different against the back of my lip. It’s more built-up than it was before and I think my brain is still getting used to that “new gum” feel in there. Doesn’t bother me unless I consciously think about it, but I’m sure that’ll fade away over time too!

So really…

It isn’t that bad. I’m three weeks post-op and other than being careful with what I eat, I’m back to a completely normal life. Pain and healing will vary – everybody’s bodies are different – but just take it easy that first week, maximize any time you can take away from work, follow your instructions, and you’ll be fine!

I have a month ahead of me, and then I go in for the other side. If things change after that one, I’ll be sure to update here with how that side went!

Don’t worry about this procedure – my wisdom teeth were far worse when it came to lasting pain, and I’m sure a lot of us have had those done!