Gum grafting is a type of periodontal surgery. It’s used to repair gums that have recessed and have exposed a tooth root. Having a gum grafting procedure can help to prevent tooth decay as well as further gum recession.

During the procedure, healthy tissue is removed from an area of your mouth and is then used to cover an exposed tooth root. There are three different types of gum graft:

  • Connective-tissue graft uses donor connective tissue from just under the surface of the roof of your mouth. It’s the most common type of gum graft.
  • Free gingival graft uses donor tissue directly from the roof of your mouth. It can be used for people with thin gums that require more support.
  • Pedicle graft uses donor tissue from the area around a neighboring tooth. This method will only be used if there’s enough healthy gum tissue available in the area.

It’s possible that you may experience some pain from gum grafting, particularly after the procedure. Below, we’ll explore more about pain after gum grafting and the strategies that you can use to help manage it.

The actual gum grafting procedure is painless. This is because a local anesthetic is used to numb the affected area. A periodontist, who is a dental specialist in gum disease and the gums, typically performs this procedure.

You may instead feel some movement or pressure as your periodontist performs the procedure. If you begin to feel pain during the procedure, be sure to let your periodontist know.

Generally speaking, the numbing effects of a local anesthetic can last for a few hours. As the anesthesia wears off, you may feel a tingling sensation and begin to experience some pain.

It’s completely normal to have some discomfort or pain as you recover from a gum graft. This will typically begin to ease more as each day passes.

Nevertheless, you may be wondering what to expect. A 2016 study investigated pain following 330 periodontal surgeries. It found that:

  • Mild pain was most common, being reported 70.3 percent of the time. Moderate to severe pain was reported 29.7 percent of the time.
  • The average duration of pain for gum grafting surgery was 2 days.
  • Periodontal plastic surgery, which includes gum grafting, was associated with more pain than other procedures.

However, it’s very important to remember that the amount of pain experienced can depend on many factors. These can include:

  • individual pain tolerance
  • the type of gum graft used
  • the type of medication used for post-surgical pain

It’s also possible that you may actually expect less pain during your recovery period than before gum grafting. A 2018 study evaluated this very topic. It included 115 people who had had soft tissue grafting, such as gum grafting.

The researchers found that pain one day after surgery was significantly lower than the participants had anticipated prior to their procedure. Additionally, post-operative pain continued to decrease steadily over the next 7 days.

Pain following a gum graft can often be managed by using over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can help relieve pain. Some examples of these include:

It’s also possible that you may be prescribed a prescription pain medication following your procedure. If so, be sure to use it exactly as prescribed.

Other ways that you can help to reduce pain after your procedure include:

  • carefully following your periodontist’s instructions about oral hygiene, including when and how to brush and floss, during your recovery
  • not disturbing the surgical site by poking or prodding it with your fingers, tongue, or other objects
  • eating soft foods like mashed potatoes, yogurt, and jello
  • avoiding foods that could irritate the area, including foods that are:
    • hard or sharp
    • spicy
    • acidic
    • very hot or cold

Your periodontist will schedule a follow-up appointment with you in the weeks after your procedure. During this time, they’ll evaluate the graft and how it’s healing.

However, there are some symptoms for which it’s important to reach out to your periodontist sooner. These can include:

  • pain, redness, or swelling that:
    • does not gradually begin to get better
    • starts getting worse
    • is much higher than expected
  • frequent bleeding that’s hard to stop
  • signs of infection, such as:
    • pus leaking from the site

Gum grafting is a type of surgery that’s used to treat gums that have receded. It uses a piece of healthy tissue from another part of your mouth to cover an exposed tooth root.

The gum grafting procedure itself is painless due to the use of a local anesthetic. However, having some pain or discomfort in the days after your surgery is normal. Exactly how much pain is experienced can vary greatly by individual.

Pain after gum grafting can often be managed with OTC medications that help relieve pain. You can also help prevent irritating the site by:

  • not disturbing it
  • eating soft foods
  • practicing good oral hygiene