Gum Surgery: Why It Is Done and What to Expect

As kids, we’re taught how important it is to brush and floss twice a day. We might obey mom and dad when we’re little but once we’re on our own, sometimes our good habits fall by the wayside.

One of the most common issues is gum disease. It’s thought that eight out of ten U.S. adults suffer from mild to severe gum disease.

Men are affected even more. Men come close to having a 60% rate of gum disease versus women’s near 40%.

If your gum disease progresses to the point where you need gum surgery, you probably have a lot of questions. We’ve got answers–keep reading to find out everything you need to know.


Unless you have an extreme or unusual case, dental gum surgery usually follows a standard procedure. First, you will be given a local anesthetic, like Novocaine. Your dentist then performs the surgery once you’re numb enough.

If you get stitches, they will most likely be self-dissolving and gone after 10 days. Many times, gum tissue grafts will need to be covered with a soft packing to protect it while it heals.

For gum surgery pain management, many times over the counter drugs work best. Your doctor will prescribe you a painkiller if necessary.

These are the basics of gum surgery. Let’s look at the different types of gum surgery.


The most common result of gum recession is exposed roots. Receding gums can be a result of several factors, including brushing your teeth too hard, teeth grinding, and chronic inflammation along the gum line due to plaque. A soft tissue graft is considered both a health and a cosmetic procedure. If your gums have receded so far that the roots are showing, a soft tissue graft can protect the roots and make your teeth look better. Not only with a soft tissue graft repair the damaged areas, but it will also help prevent any further recession.

During the procedure, your periodontist will remove gum tissue from the root of your mouth, also known as your palate. Sub-epithelial tissue is taken from beneath the incision made in your palate and stitched to the area where the gum has receded and exposed the root of the tooth. Afterward, the incision made to your palate is stitched back up. There are some cases where patients and their dentists choose to use graft material that has been collected from a tissue bank rather than the roof of the patient’s mouth. The graft from the tissue bank might have been treated with stimulating proteins in order to support regeneration of the gum as well as fighting the risk of graft rejection or disease.


According to the American Academy of Periodontology, regenerative procedures have the potential to reverse some of the damage that is caused by periodontal disease. However, regeneration is a very intense procedure. To get your gum tissue to regenerate, your periodontist will have to do gum removal surgery. For those who suffer from periodontal disease, pockets begin to form around the teeth because the surrounding tissue and bone are being destroyed. Bacteria begins to collect in these pockets, and as time goes on, the pockets become deeper, allowing the bacteria to flourish and cause further damage. Unfortunately, if too much bone is lost, it can cause the teeth to become loose and they will require removal.

First, they’ll pull back your gums and clean out any harmful bacteria. By removing the bacteria, your periodontist will be able to reduce the depth of the pockets that have formed with the aid of the regenerating bone and tissue. After that, they’ll put in membranes, proteins that stimulate the tissue, and/or bone grafts as needed.

Bone grafting, though it sounds scary and painful, is actually a very successful, surprisingly simple, procedure. To summarize, your periodontist will make a small incision in the gum tissue and separate it from the bone. Then, the bone grafting that has been prepared for insertion is placed gently at the affected area. Bone grafting, combined with proteins and membranes, encourage the gum tissue to regenerate.


For those who have “gummy” smiles, meaning that the teeth are covered in too much gum tissue, crown lengthening is a common procedure where the excess gum tissue is reshaped to expose more tooth surface. While the benefits of this surgery are largely cosmetic, there are health benefits as well. For example, if your tooth is damaged, decayed, or in need of regular care, crown lengthening will make your dentists job easier since more of the tooth will be exposed.

The length of time required for this procedure depends on how large of an area your dentist needs to work on. Cuts will be made along the gum so that the periodontist will be able to pull the gums away from the teeth, exposing the roots and the surrounding bone. The excess bone tissue and gum are then reshaped to expose more of the tooth surface. Afterward, the area will be washed with sterilized salt water before the gums are stitched back in place. It takes about three months for the gums to heal.


Gingival flap surgery, also known as pocket reduction, is another way for your periodontist to remove harmful bacteria. Typically, this procedure is used to treat those with moderate to advanced periodontitis.

Before the procedure begins, your periodontist or dental hygienist will remove the calculus—the plaque and tartar—that has built up around your teeth. They will also go over any health conditions you might have or medications you might be taking as this will ensure your safety during the procedure.

After numbing the area, the periodontist will create a flap in your gums and peel it back so that they can reach the tooth’s root and the bone. They clean out any bacteria they find and then ensure your gum tissue grows back correctly by securing it to your teeth. During this time, they will also remove any inflamed tissue that has occurred between the teeth and from any defects in the bone. A procedure called scaling and root planing also occurs at this point, where the periodontist cleans up the plaque and tartar. Then, they smooth the edges of the bone by using tools like files and rotating burs.

Afterward, the gums will be stitched back in place. Typically, some dentists will use stitches that dissolve on their own, but some will require you to return to remove the stitches after about 10 days. Some risks that occur after this surgery include bleeding and swelling of the area, temperature sensitivity, and a higher chance of developing cavities in the roots.


Once you break down gum surgery to these basics, you’ll feel more confident speaking to your dentist about your options. Understanding what dental gum surgery is all about will help put you at ease.

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