What Is the Gum Graft Recovery Timeline?

Joyful mature couple with perfect smiles.

Receding gums can cause many potential problems. When the roots of teeth are exposed, they are at higher risk of decay and loss from periodontal disease. One of the treatments for receding gums is gum graft surgery. Here is what you need to know about gum graft surgery, including the recovery timeline.

What Is Gum Graft Surgery?

Gum graft surgery is a procedure that is used to restore gum tissue where tooth roots are exposed. The surgery uses donor gum tissue that is sutured over exposed roots. Patients may need to have gum tissue harvested from their gums or palate first, then grafted in the needed areas.

Gum graft surgery is usually performed under sedation and requires patients to have a responsible adult bring them home after the procedure. The surgery takes one to two hours to perform, and patients can expect to need up to two weeks for complete gum graft recovery.

Who Needs Gum Graft Surgery?

The most common reason for receding gums is periodontal or gum disease. Almost half of adults over 30 have some level of gum disease. Other possible causes of receding gums include aggressive brushing, mouth trauma and tobacco use. Gum graft surgery can restore healthy gums to protect oral health.

The Gum Graft Recovery Timeline

After a gum graft procedure, patients can expect to have downtime for recovery. Gum graft surgery recovery will occur over about two weeks as the tissue heals from the operation. While you will not need the full two weeks to recover, you will have some symptoms during this period.

If you know what to expect after your gum graft surgery, you can be better prepared for your recovery. Most people will need to have at least two days off from work, school or other taxing activities to rest. Here is the gum graft recovery timeline for the days after your procedure.

Within 24 Hours After Gum Graft Surgery

The 24 hours after gum graft surgery may be the most uncomfortable time for patients. When the anesthesia wears off, there can be some pain and discomfort. Your doctor will recommend pain relievers you can use to minimize pain once the anesthesia no longer provides relief.

Bleeding is expected as part of gum graft surgery recovery. Gauze is usually placed over the surgical areas with pressure on the gums to absorb blood for the first hour after surgery. It should be replaced as needed until the bleeding subsides, which is usually less than four hours after surgery.

During the first 24 hours, rest with your head elevated. You can expect to have some swelling, which can be minimized by applying an ice pack to the outside of the cheek – avoid heat for 24 hours. Only eat extremely soft foods, preferably liquids like soup, to avoid disturbing the healing gum tissue.

First Two Days

You should expect to rest and recover during the first two days after gum graft surgery – too much activity can increase discomfort. Use pain relievers as needed for pain and sleep with your head elevated or propped on pillows. Ice packs can minimize swelling and help relieve discomfort.

After 24 hours, you can rinse your mouth with warm water. Your doctor may recommend adding ½ teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water to use as a rinse several times a day. You may also be prescribed a special mouthwash and medications to help reduce risks of infection.

Oral hygiene is important after gum graft surgery, but you must be careful of the surgical areas. Brush and floss your teeth but avoid disturbing the surgical areas.

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First Seven Days

After your second day of recovery, you should have a significant decrease in pain. You should continue using the salt water rinses until about day four, or as recommended by your doctor.

During the first week, you will continue to have swelling. You may also have bruising around the mouth and jaw near the surgical site.

You can begin returning to many of your normal activities, but still continue eating soft foods for the first week. It is best to avoid consuming anything extremely hot or cold during the first week to minimize aggravating the surgical area.

Week Two of Recovery

By week two, you should have very little swelling, bruising or discomfort. It is normal to have some jaw pain – it may be uncomfortable to open and close your jaw up to 10 days post-surgery. You should follow your doctor’s instructions, but most patients are fully recovered at the end of two weeks.
A dentist and a smiling man in a dental chair during a post-treatment appointment.
Gum graft surgery can have wonderful benefits for the health and appearance of your smile. The gum graft recovery is minimal – you can expect to be back to normal activities in a few days and completely healed within two weeks. Make sure to follow your doctor’s orders for expedited healing.