One of the surgeries I recently spent time recovering from was Gum Grafting.
Gum grafting was recommended to me quite some time ago, having significant periodontal disease which has led to receding gums and loose teeth, but I kept putting it off.
Many factors have impacted this significant gum recession, leading to the gum grafting. Living with Bipolar Disorder has meant my hygiene routine has often been lack lustre. I remember periods where I didn’t brush my teeth vs periods where I brushed anxiously and aggressively.
Another thing to point out is that many medications impact the rate of bacteria growth due to the frustrating side effect that is dry mouth. Lithium gave me this side effect quite intensely – to the point where I developed a Pepsi addiction in a bid to quench the never ending thirst, seriously could slam a 2l of Pepsi a day! Further impacting the health of my teeth and gums.
Coupled with genetics and 12 years of sporting a lip piercing, my gums had turned into quite the disaster zone.
However, scared by doctor google and the online stories of infinite pain, I truly didn’t think gum grafting was for me, until it was a tooth to toothless decision. I’d much rather keep my bottom front teeth, and so I decided to go for it in January as a preventative measure.
My dentist, Dr Ross C Crapo is well known for his in depth knowledge and expertise in gum grafting, which can be seen by the many qualifications hanging on the clinic walls.
Dr Crapo walked me through the whole process of gum grafting and was very upfront that the surgery could go multiple ways in terms of pain levels and recovery time.
I’ve had a long term battle with dentistry and my anxiety therein. Luckily the entire team have worked with me to carry out procedures in the most comfortable and calming way possible. BIG shoutout to Liz the hygienist, who goes above and beyond to work within my comfort limits and ease my anxiety.
Running up to the gum grafting surgery I was asked to quit vaping, which I knew was going to be my biggest hurdle. In the end I done much less than was asked of me and ended up vaping right up until the night before surgery, tut tut.
Dr Crapo also introduced me to a new pre and post gum grafting surgery oral are regime called Stella Life. I was directed to rinse my mouth a couple of times a day running up to surgery with a natural solution aimed to reduce the need for heavy pain meds and support the healing process.
On the morning of the gum grafting surgery my anxiety was high. I’m pretty sure I was crying as the IV sedation took me off to Lala land (albeit with my adult diaper on to prevent any accidents from a 4 hour procedure haha) and before I knew it I was awake and being escorted to the car by my sweet husband.
The gum grafting itself was pretty extensive according to the doctor. They cut a strip of gum tissue from the roof of my mouth and attached it, practically ear to ear, to my bottom gum line.
Post gum grafting I had a putty dressing and plastic mouth guard which protected the exposed layer of tissue in the upper mouth. This stopped rogue bits of food getting Into the would and dressing, but it got quite yucky fast. They supplied be with 4 of these guards which was ample in the end. I found myself changing the mouth card every day – mostly because I was on a soup diet which was changing the colour of the guard, tomato soup equalled orange mouth guard!!
On the lower of my mouth they placed the same putty like dressing over the grafting site, which was secured around my teeth.
Days 1 and 2 were probably the worst of it. The swelling was pretty full on and hung around for about 4 days alongside T3 pain meds (a mix of codeine and acetaminophen). I would be fine while the pain meds were doing their thing, but the moment that had worn off the pain would come bouncing back. On the first night it was a short cry in the middle of the night, but that didn’t hang around for long and as I mentioned by day 4 I was feeling miles better and on regular ibuprofen. By day 4 I was also eating more robust foods and felt comfortable enough without the upper mouth guard.
The worst moment for me was somewhere on day 2, when feeling nauseous from the pain meds and lack of proper food, I felt like I was going to throw up. My first thought was ‘what if the pressure of the vomit action moves the dressings, or worse, the graft!!’. Cue panic attack and an outpour of tears. Steve calmed me down and sat with me while I sucked on some Ativan before going for a nap.
Part of the Stella Life routine was a spray and gel for post surgery application. I truly believe it helped a lot. From what I’ve read my pain was minimal, especially on the roof of my mouth, I felt absolutely no pain in that area.
Fast forward 3 weeks and it was post op appointment day, well besides the one trip I made part way through recovery to get my dressing repacked a little.
I was an absolute nervous wreck at the post op appointment. I cried and cried in the chair as they removed the dressing (which was completely painless BTW).
And then it happened. I could see the smile lines in the doctors eyes as he proclaimed ‘that looks absolutely beautiful and your healing is impressive’. Aaaaaand another cry from me, this time of pure joy and elation.
The doctor has checked on it a couple of times since and we are all very happy with the results.
Often gum grafting is carried out for cosmetic purposes, which I will do again at some point for that reason. But this specific procedure was actually to regain some strength and stability in my bottom front teeth. At least 2 teeth were mobile and the fear of losing those teeth was suffocating having a missing front tooth already.
In the months since the surgery my teeth have firmed up and my gums look exponentially healthier.
All in all it was my nerves and anxiety that overpowered any pain or complications with the surgery. I am very much thrilled with the result and I am extremely grateful for the work and care of the whole team at Dr Ross Crapo & Associates Dentistry.
For someone who challenges a severe mental illness on the daily and spent 6 months in psychosis, my mantra of ‘everything is temporary’ helped me push through the hardest parts of this process.
If you are like me and the thought of gum grafting surgery is too overwhelming, I get it. And by all means you may not have the same gum grating journey or recovery as me, but I do recommend it highly and I’m hopeful that I can keep my teeth for a while longer!