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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Grafting

I realize as I write this post that it is probably along the lines of something that is only interesting to me, but hey, that's why I have a blog.

On Wednesday I had my final post-op visit for a gum graft I had done about a month ago. They were showing me pictures of the progress and I said it was too bad they couldn't give me a copy of them because I would love to put them on my blog. My dentist thought that was pretty cool but the best he could do was a black and white printout of them. Since he went to the trouble I have to take the time to document this interesting experience.

About two years ago at my regular dentist checkup, when asked if there were any teeth that were bothering me, I said that I did have one that would go through phases of being really sensitive. The dentist said that my gum was receding over that tooth and talked about the possibility to doing a gum graft. At that time I don't think I even asked any more questions. It wasn't something that gave me constant pain and not enough to go though what ever a gum graft was.

I am a faithful six-month check-up at the dentist, and every time he would ask me about the tooth. I just kept brushing it off and never thought much about it. At my last visit in January I gave it a little more thought. Mostly because since I'm not paying for Pat's medical bills anymore, I have a lot more insurance money to spend. So this time when the dentist brought it up, I asked him to explain more about it. For a gum graft they take a piece of tissue from the roof of your mouth. They then pull your gum away from the tooth and slide in the new piece of tissue. Like putting it in an envelope. The dentist said that the benefit of doing it now was that my gum was still healthy so I had a better chance of it working well.

The problem with your gums receding is that it puts that tooth or teeth at greater risk for cavities. As the problem continues you put yourself at risk for damage to the roots and can lose the tooth. They sometimes do things like putting a filling over the area just to give it extra protection, but a gum graft has the greatest chance of restoring the tooth to normal. What the hell, lets do it.

Here is a photo of my tooth before the procedure. Sorry about the lack of quality. I really wish I could have gotten good copies in color because I thought they were very interesting.

Shocking I know. It's the second tooth from the left and I'm sure you are thinking, what's the problem? It's not as easy to tell in black and white, and even then not really obvious, but the gum goes higher on that tooth and had a part right at the top where the tooth was starting to be affected. There is a ridge of gum and then the gum really thins out above that which was something they were also concerned about.

When the procedure was explained to me I thought they would just sort of slice off a piece of skin from the roof of my mouth. From what I could tell during the procedure, and looking at it afterwards, I think they cut open the roof and took a piece of tissue that was right along the bone. I had three stitches on the inside of my mouth and two on the actually graft. This is a week after the graft.

This is the one I really wish you could see in color. It was gross. It looked like something had died on my tooth. And to make matters worse I wasn't allowed to brush my teeth in that area for three weeks. I had a medicated rinse I used so I'm sure everything was fine, but not being able to brush your teeth makes you a little paranoid that you are walking around with the worst breath in the world. And thanks to my boss I chew gum everyday after lunch which would have helped, but I couldn't chew gum until after the stitches came out.

This is two weeks after the graft. Finally starting to look better. Still a little like something had died on my tooth, but I was finally seeing progress. My tongue had finally stopped playing with the hole left from the graft and the pain had almost completely gone away.

At this is from my final visit.

The gum is back down to a protective level and nice and plump above the tooth. The dentist said that when they pulled back the gum there was more damage to the bone underneath then was thought, which he said usually is the case. So it was a good thing I had the procedure done and it has healed very nicely. And I can brush my teeth there again! Never thought I would be excited about that.

So after dealing with pain, wearing a retainer to protect the stitches on the inside of my mouth, feeling that something had died on my mouth and never would be the same, I made it out the other side. And now have a healthy new patch of gum to show for it.

4 comments:

Swede_Lady said...

I feel like going to the mirror to double check all my gums!

Britta said...

My dentist told me I might need that some day - on the two teeth that got pulled down from fang-status with my braces - it totally freaked me out. It still does.

Joe and Savanna said...

I'm probably the only other one that gets interested in this sort of thing since I'm going into dental hygiene. I also had to have a graft done but it was on my bottom front teeth. Not the most pleasant experience ever but I'm pretty happy with the results. Looks like yours healed very well!

Susie said...

That's pretty awesome. Ever since taking so many anatomy classes in massage school, this stuff totally interests me. It looks good, and I'm sure you'll thank yourself for doing that!