What is Soft Tissue Grafting? Your Questions Answered!

oral surgeon's office

What is soft tissue grafting? This is a process used to stop gums receding or to improve the appearance of your gums. Soft tissue grafting can help cover roots or replace missing gum tissue that has developed due to gum recession.

So if you’re told you need gum surgery, keep in mind the reality isn’t as bad as it sounds. Soft tissue grafting is a common oral surgery procedure that typically requires an oral surgeon but is not more invasive than many common dental treatments.

What is Gum Recession?

Gum recession happens when the tissue surrounding the teeth pulls away from the tooth. It’s a common result of gum disease and smoking. Overtime, gum recession can damage the supporting bone of the tooth. Gum recession is quite common — it affects 4% to 12% of adults. By the time you start to really notice it, gum recession can be quite severe.

Receding gums can be unsightly, but they also put your oral health at risk; receded gums expose the tooth’s root, leaving it susceptible to bacteria and decay. Not to mention that receding gums are often a sign of gum disease, which should be dealt with immediately.

Soft Tissue Graft: What to Expect

There are three common types of soft tissue grafting.

In a free gingival graft, a strip of tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth and stitched to your gum line. This is done to thicken the tissue of the gum line and is a very common oral surgery. This kind of soft tissue graft is often used for cosmetic purposes, like if people feel their teeth look too long.

A connective tissue graft is done for larger areas of damaged or missing gums, or to protect an exposed root. We remove subepithelial connective tissue from a small flap in the mouth and suture it to the grafting site.

Pedicle grafts take tissue from the gum around or surrounding the tooth that needs repaired. The flap, also known as a pedicle, is partially cut away, leaving one edge attached. We then pull the gum over or down around the exposed root. This procedure is only possible if you have enough existing gum to pull over the tooth without exposing any other part of the tooth.

Recovering from a Soft Tissue Graft

Following the procedure, you’ll be able to go home. We recommend someone drive you, since you still may be groggy from the effects of the sedation dentistry we use to ensure your comfort. If we used general anesthesia as the sedation method for your soft tissue graft procedure, take into account it will take you a bit longer to be able to go home.

We’ll give you special instructions about after care. It’s important that you follow them. This will include diet, physical activity, and medications. We don’t give you directions for our health; they’re for yours! Follow these guidelines and you’ll have a speedy recovery from your gum graft:

  • Avoid brushing or flossing the affected gum line until everything has healed. We’ll give you a special antibiotic mouthwash to rinse with to clean the affected gums.
  • Go easy on food for the first week following a soft tissue graft. Stick to mostly soft food — eggs, pasta, Jell-O, yogurt, cottage cheese, well-cooked vegetables, and ice cream.
  • The amount of pain you’ll feel can vary depending on the type of soft tissue grafting performed. You’ll likely experience some degree of discomfort if tissue was removed from your palate. Go easy and take the pain medication we prescribe you. Much of the time, over-the-counter pain medication is enough to help manage any discomfort.


See? Soft tissue grafting – pretty cool and not nearly as invasive as it sounds. If you suffer from gum recession, talk to your local oral surgery practice. A quick consultation with a skilled maxillofacial surgeon can shed some light on whether gum grafting is right for you.