Need gum grafting for receding gums? I did and I dreaded it, but I have some good news. I was able to try a new technique called pinhole gum grafting surgery. This is something that you should know about in case receding gum treatment is in your future. It is a common ailment.
First, let’s talk about traditional grafting surgery. It is unpleasant, since typically, skin is cut from the roof of the mouth and then inserted into the receding gum area. Eek!
So, when my dentist told me that grafting was needed with a referred local periodontist, I instantly felt anxious. My mother and brother had been through the traditional grafting and they felt for me, too. I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t having any pain and my receding gums weren’t bothering me a bit, but I knew that they would at some point and if receding gums are ignored for years, the actual tooth could fall out.
I didn’t want that, so I bravely scheduled the appointment with Dr. Randy Fitzgerald at AZ Perio in Ahwatukee. The AZ Perio staff is very nice to talk with on the phone and to work with in the office. It is like they know that patients fear the word, periodontist. And Dr. Fitzgerald was very nice as well.
And he had some good news for me.
I wasn’t going to have suffer through what my poor mom and brother endured because there is a relatively new procedure called pinhole surgical technique. Dr. Fitzgerald explained to me that I would be numbed and then he would inject collagen strips under my gums, thereby filling in the receding spots to cover the tooth with the gums to the previously normal state.
He was also honest in letting me know that there would be a recovery period with some discomfort and that I would need to be on a cocktail of meds during the recovery time. I appreciated knowing that because if the words, pinhole surgical procedure is googled, words that he didn’t use come up. Google searching said painless, no recovery time and no stitches. That is not always actually the case.
Dr. Fitzgerald is very thorough and works to greatly reduce the chance that future surgery will be needed. Although only time will tell us that for sure. So he does incorporate a few stitches into his pinhole procedure if he feels they are necessary. In my case, a few were needed.
So how did my experience go? Would I recommend this? Here is my short gum surgery story. First, a few pictures of my recovery stages as these photos will help reduce the fear if you end up needing this procedure. I have read that over 50% of the population suffers from some sort of receding gums, so chances are, many of my blog readers may need this treatment in the future.
Now that you see the pictures, you can see that the recovery with the pinhole procedure was not bad at all. I will now take you through my pinhole journey. Short and sweet, but with some stuff to pay attention to and remember when considering the pinhole technique.
On January 3rd, I drove myself to breakfast before my procedure. My entire family was sick and I wanted to get this surgery over with, so I proceeded. I went to a restaurant first, as I had asked the doctor if I could enjoy a big meal and a mimosa pre-surgery, since I would be required to be on soft foods for two weeks following the operation. He agreed to that. He had offered me Valium to relax me for the procedure, but I turned it down since I would not be able to drive and would lose a day feeling loopy. Good thing I chose that route since my family was too ill to drive me and to care for me that day!
After a big delicious breakfast and one enjoyable mimosa, it was time for my surgery. I was lucky that I wasn’t going under, so I could fill up my tank first before heading to the shop, so to speak!
The numbing shots hurt, as expected, but nothing too terrible. They asked to cover my eyes with a towel, so I decided to pretend like I was at the spa having a facial, as they worked away. No pain, but unfortunately, I did have some sinus discomfort on the opposite side of my mouth as they worked.
Scheduling this right after the hectic holidays left me rundown and getting over a cold, which made my sinuses vulnerable, but I was OK and could deal with it. I also knew that the antibiotic I would take, to prevent post-surgery infection, would also wipe out any sinus infection that was left over from the pesky holiday virus my family fought. Tis’ the season!
So my first big piece of advice #1…don’t schedule surgery or procedures right after the holidays or an event that may have you rundown. Try to be your strongest and healthiest self when preparing for any type of surgical procedure.
The procedure took a little over an hour. I had already purchased my soft foods, so I departed for the drug store to get a narcotic painkiller that the doctor prescribed for me, just in case my pain warranted that.
Great news. It never did! The extra strength Tylenol and prescribed ibuprofen did the job. Which brings me to my advice #2…stay ahead of the pain when recovering from a surgery. I kept a chart of the different meds I had to take and the times of day and night each one was ingested, with a list of the upcoming times as well.
When recovering from a surgery, the body is tired and rundown. No matter how minor, the body is messed with and it responds to the invasion and needs TLC. So even if you think a surgery is common or minor, schedule time to recover. Truly.
I had to take more pills than I like to endure as I recovered from this procedure. As I mentioned, for three days, I stayed on extra strength Tylenol combined with a prescription ibuprofen, that I kept scheduled to take at different times. My least favorite item that I had to take for a week was the steroids. This helped to reduce the swelling and I was required to start the pack one day in advance of the surgery. I didn’t like the side effects, which included an increased appetite, ironic when I couldn’t chew many foods. I also had a cough while on those pills, but it cleared up as soon as I finished the pack. The doctor has patients reduce the amount taken gradually each day, so that body comes off the powerful steroids gradually, which is good.
I was also given a powerful germicidal mouth rinse that I was required to start the day after surgery. This stuff is strong and greatly reduces bacteria, which I found to appreciate since I was not allowed to brush or flush my teeth for two weeks following the surgery. Sound gross?
I was afraid of just how gross that would be, but this rinse took care of any potential bad breath. However, it will be good to be done with with it soon, since it can stain teeth. I will be finished with this rinse in one more week. The doc also gave me a special super soft post surgical tooth brush. I got to brush very gently last night. The things we take for granted…brushing teeth!
So I found my recovery to be almost be more about coming off the different meds than my swollen jaw. The painkiller combo made me sleepy and the steroids made me feel rundown with a cough. As I finished each med, I gradually felt better. Since it is winter, the soft foods diet wasn’t as challenging as I had imagined it would be, since soup is in season. I had lots of soup, we juiced fruits and veggies and pals brought me yellow curry, homemade soup, smoothies and more.
This brings me to my advice snippit #3….ask for and accept help. Again, googling the words, pinhole procedure makes this surgery sound easy breezy with no recovery time. Not true. Your gums are being messed with. In my case, they were also cut a little and asked to accept injections of a foreign matter. My body is not used to taking in a bunch of new meds, all at once. My gums were swollen and I was adjusting to a different diet. So if you do have pinhole surgery, take comfort in knowing that it is way less invasive than traditional grafting with a shorter recovery time, but you will need to schedule some recovery time.
I was told that it would be two full weeks for me. Two full weeks on soft foods, too. Well, I followed the long list of post-op care tips to a T…and I shortened my recovery time by doing so. This piece of paper below became my bible and I followed all the instructions religiously. Like most of us, I don’t have time to be down and I didn’t want any post-surgery complications. So, my advice #4…do exactly what they tell you to do post-op, have a family member read it with you to help you keep track of it all. Be sure to keep notes regarding what time meds are taken, unusual bleeding, etc. I also drank healing herbal teas and ate as much veggies and fruits juiced as I could. I took my vitamins and added protein powder to my smoothies. And I got extra rest.
I did have a little unusual bleeding the day of my surgery. The post op instructions failed to stop the bleeding, so my wonderful periodontist stayed open after hours to take a look at my gums. All was good but the time I arrived, so that was a relief.
That would be my only complication and it was very slight. So I do recommend the pinhole technique. If you live in the Phoenix area, I highly recommend AZ Perio and Dr. Fitzgerald. I am very happy to be ending this experience and this article with that recommendation!
And one more thing…I have read in multiple articles that good dental hygiene and care can add 10 years to your life, so don’t ignore your chompers. If surgery is needed, hopefully I just gave you some good news about the wonders of technology when it comes to gum grafting. Remember the words, pinhole procedure if your dentist tells you that receding gum surgery is needed.