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What Is a Soft Tissue Graft?

Eating disorders such as bulimia may cause receding gums, necessitating a soft tissue graft.
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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 12 December 2014
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A soft tissue graft is a dental procedure that can be done for an individual who has receding gums. Tissue is taken from another area of the mouth and applied over the exposed roots of teeth. This procedure can be done in all areas of the gum line that need to be reinforced.

When an individual's gum line begins to recede, it can expose the roots of the teeth and create a number of problems. Teeth may become loose and sensitive, and in severe cases there can even be bone loss around the area that has lost its protective covering. This may be caused by a number of different reasons, including brushing too hard, gum tissue that is naturally thin, or periodontal diseases such as gingivitis. A soft tissue graft can help repair damage and stop further recession, no matter what the cause.

There are several different types of soft tissue grafts, all identified by where the tissue is taken from in order to repair the gums. In a connective tissue graft, the tissue is removed from the top of the individual's mouth. The surface layer of the mouth is peeled back and the connective tissue cut from beneath, then applied to the gum line and secured in place. Alternately, the surface tissue of the roof of the mouth can also sometimes be used; this is called a free gingival graft.

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In some cases, there may be an instance of a receding gum line near only one tooth. This may mean that tissue can be taken from a nearby tooth and separated, covering both the root of the original tooth and the one with damaged gum tissue. Called a pedicle graft, it is one that is the least common but often most successful, as the connection between the gum and the tissue remains intact. If there is not enough tissue in the mouth to cover the exposed teeth, there is also the option of using synthetic tissue; this type of soft tissue graft is usually the last resort.

A soft tissue graft can take several weeks to heal completely. Since the mouth is a constantly damp area, a protective seal will often be put over the area of the graft and the area where the tissue was removed. Dental hygiene can often be done as usual, and if the condition was created by brushing too hard, the medical professional will often give the individual guidelines on how to prevent the recession from happening again. If it does, a soft tissue graft can usually be performed multiple times.

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