Before the gum graft
I read up on how different people's gum grafting experiences went and thoroughly scared myself. I even watched a Youtube video of an entire gum graft surgery.
My recommendation? Don't watch the video. You'll scare yourself silly and you might throw up a little. The read-up on experiences was helpful, but ignore the horror stories. Most of them are outdated so the bad news won't apply to you. Look for the positive reports. Most people don't write about the smooth operations, but they are the more likely scenario.
I bought some cans of soup in preparation, and some bottles of Ensure/Boost meal replacement. I figured I'd avoid solid foods for the first few days afterwards to avoid chewing and to avoid too much gunk building up on my teeth since I won't be allowed to brush the teeth around the wound site.
I wore comfortable clothing on the day-of, had a small, soft ice pack ready in the fridge (the kind that will easily mold around your face), and I put two beanie toys/stress balls in my purse. I also took a "before" picture so that I can show you a comparison later :)
I made sure to eat ahead of time so that I can avoid eating afterwards for a bit. I ate my vitamins and calcium too so that I have all the vitamins I'll need to heal fast.
My orthodontist recommended that I bring my retainers so I washed those and put them into my purse too. She said that I would appreciate having something prevent my tongue from being able to touch the roof of my mouth, and I think that was very good advice. I should mention that I made sure to wear the retainers for three straight days before the surgery so that the retainers fit very well. I wanted an easy fit, instead of the snug fit I get if I forget to wear the retainers for a few days.
Now I was ready for the gum graft surgery.
3. At the Periodontist's office
I was pretty scared, but the receptionists reassured me that it would all go well. I got the periodontist to give my boyfriend the prescriptions so that he could run and get the prescriptions filled while I was getting the surgery done. She prescribed Tylenol 3 with codeine and a special mouth rinse called PerioGard by Colgate.
Please Make It Look Pretty
I sat in the dentist chair and pulled out the two beanie dolls/stress balls. They put a protective bib on me and the hygienist/assistant gave me the run down of what was going to happen and what I needed to know. She asked me if I wanted a blanket and if I had any questions. I asked her if I could go to my cousin's wedding in three days and she said that would be fine, but to bring the mouthwash and to avoid strenuous activities. I asked if the periodontist could make the free gingival gum graft (that's the kind I'm getting) look pretty and not like a "chunk of meat" sitting on top. The hygienist assured me that they would do their best, and that most of the gum grafts turned out quite nicely.
In case the hygienist forgot to mention it, I asked the periodontist to please make it look pretty too, and she assured me that she would try. She even comforted me on my fears that the graft would look way paler than the rest of the gums around it. She said that sometimes the graft is the same colour as the gums around it.
I like the idea that there is a chance that the gum graft will blend in. My gum graft is off to the side so no one will likely ever see it, but I'm still self-conscious about a blob of gums sitting around in the middle of nowhere in my mouth. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will look somewhat decent when it's finished healing.
The periodontist took two big Q-tips and swabbed the areas that she was going to work on with numbing agent. She left the lower Q-tip in place for a bit, which was great because I didn't feel the first few freezing needles going in at all. When I'm at the dentist office, I usually still feel the needle going in even if there is no pain, but her magic freezing agent worked like a charm. I was still freaked out about getting a needle, but it's nice to feel nothing.
I didn't feel the needle for the upper part either. I'm not even sure if I got one there. In fact, I think she went in and cut the gum part that she needed at that point, but I'm not sure. I was wondering instead why the needle made a whirring noise, but I tried not to think about it. Whatever the numbing agent was, it worked.
4. During the procedure
I had a TV above my head so I watched the news and the Regis and Kelly show (I didn't have a remote control). The periodontist and the hygienist kept a conversation about random topics going so I let that and the TV sort of tune out what was going on in my mouth. I hummed too, which at first was worrisome to the hygienist because she thought I was saying something or in pain, but when she realized I was just humming she was relieved. I found their talking to be comforting. I didn't pay much attention to it, but it was nice to have something distracting and unrelated going on around me.
I vaguely noticed instruments going to and from my mouth, and I noted that there was no blood on anything. That was a good sign. I didn't even notice any bloody gauzes coming from my mouth. They were all pale coloured (I was only noting darkness on anything, not looking too closely out of the corner of my eye since I didn't really want to see anything). The only fluid I saw was drool/saliva and I'm okay with that.
I didn't feel anything during the procedure. Other than instruments and gauzes going back and forth, I didn't feel a thing. The only time I could feel something was if it touched the corners of my mouth or the other side of my mouth. That would not be painful, just contact.
My favourite sensation during the procedure was a moist, cool gauze that the periodontist used when she held the corner of my mouth open. It was a nice, soft cushion (very thoughtful) and it was a pleasant feeling.
I was surprised when I saw a thread being pulled from my mouth. I didn't realize that the procedure was almost done and she was already sewing the gum graft into place. I found the long, light yellow thread to be fascinating. It is the dissolving kind so I won't need to go back for the stitches to be removed.
She sewed for what seemed like a long time (probably because I was half-paying attention now and I asked her to make it pretty) and I tried not to look too closely at the sewing either, but it kept being pulled out so I glazed over it once in a while. I think I vaguely saw some staining on her gloves so there might have been blood on the thread, which I guess makes sense. Anyhow, I didn't look closely, and I didn't notice it on her fingertips for very long. They really kept the whole procedure quite clean.
When they were all done, they put my retainers in. The retainers slid into place easily (thank goodness!). The periodontist gave me a mirror to show me where the retainers were close to the gum graft so that I would remember to be careful when I removed the retainers.
Sooo, I got to SEE the gum graft. It looked like a white, oval blob stitched to my gums. Ewww, but also kind of interesting. I was all done.
Time to go home
The periodontist gave me an information sheet that told me all the different things to do and avoid after the surgery. It also had contact information on it. I also got a little bag of gauze to use in case there was any bleeding.
I tried to apply the ice pack on the way home, but the car moves too much. I recommend using the ice pack when you get home.
5. After the surgery
I'm home now and I'm avoiding talking, even though I can. The grossest thing about the whole procedure was the first swallow afterwards. I kept imagining blood in my saliva so it was gross to swallow. So close your mouth right away after the surgery so that you can avoid collecting saliva in the bottom. When your mouth is closed, teeth almost together and all, then you kind of swallow without thinking about it.
Tylenol 3 and Cold Pack
I took a T3 right away after I got home because the periodontist told me to take one before the freezing wore off. It was easy to swallow it with a little water.
I took the cold pack out of the fridge and gently leaned it against the general area. I couldn't really feel the cold pack, so I put a cloth in between the cold pack and my face so that I wouldn't make it too cold on my face.
Two Hours Later
When the freezing started to wear off about 1-2 hours later, my chin in the front started to ache. This is weird because the gum graft is off to the side. I have no idea why my chin aches. Anyways, I was still icing the area on and off so I just tied the ice pack to my head under my chin (so my hands are free to type).
My ice pack is cool. I got it from the oral surgeon when I had my wisdom teeth removed and it came in a cloth sleeve. The sleeve protects you from cold burning your face, but it's also long enough to tie around your head! I showed it to my brother and I got a good laugh out of the expression on his face when he saw me with a cold pack tied to my head. Be careful not to move your mouth too much if you laugh after a gum graft surgery :)
Three Hours Later
I drank some water and I'm starting to feel hungry. My chin has stopped aching so the ice pack is back in the fridge. I put two bottles of Ensure in the fridge so I'll pull one of those out now.
Four Hours Later
The Ensure (Vanilla flavour with extra protein) was tasty and I felt pretty good so I went outside to look at the plants in the garden. I don't feel any achiness or pain now (unless I touch that area) so I'm just going to take it easy and put some ice pack on it again for a bit.
Five Hours Later
A dull ache is coming back. I realize that the original Tylenol 3 I took is probably wearing off now since they only last 4-6 hours. I'm going to take another one now.
Seven Hours Later
Hungry again. Had another Ensure. It's not very satisfying though when you're used to eating sweet potatoes, cookies, and other yummy foods. I can't wait to be able to eat real food again.
Ten Hours Later
Had another T3 and had some of that new Campbell's Butternut Squash Gardennay soup in a carton. I heated it in a glass cup in the microwave and found it too thick to drink so I added some cold water to cool it down and then I drank it like a shake from the cup. Worked pretty well. Then I washed it down with some water so that I wouldn't be keeping any of the soup in my mouth for long. I figure it's smart to keep all the wounds clear of food as much as possible.
I really want to eat a cookie. I wonder if I can mash one up in a cup of milk and drink it? I could heat up the cookie in the milk in the microwave so that the chocolate will melt so that I can eat a chocolate chip cookie...
Eleven Hours Later
Muahahaha! I tried the cookie in milk experiment. It doesn't look awesome, but it didn't taste so bad. The only problem was that I used a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie and there were bits of peanut. I had to scoop out the peanut bits so that I could drink it like a shake. Next time, I'll choose a cookie without insoluble hard bits in it.
I have to brush my teeth, but I'm kind of skittish about it. I'm worried about seeing blood, feeling pain, taking out the retainers, etc. I took a Tylenol 3 half hour in advance so that I won't be feeling much pain, and then I gathered my supplies.
I had a cut/crack at the corner of my mouth so I applied chapstick liberally to my lips to avoid any more cracking. Then I rinsed very gently with some water, was relieved to see no blood, and took out the bottom retainer very carefully. I decided that toothpaste was too much of a mess to rinse out so I opted to use my Oral B mouthwash as toothpaste instead. I dipped the toothbrush into some mouthwash in a cup, shook it out, and carefully began to gently brush any areas away from the gum graft site. I rinsed my toothbrush every once in a while and reloaded it with fresh mouthwash. I didn't want to use any excess mouthwash because I was worried that it would contact the wound site and sting.
When I was done with the bottom, I rinsed gently with water and replaced the bottom retainer. Then I took out the top retainer and did the same thing, being careful to avoid the wound area on the top. Rinse, replace retainer.
Now it was time for the special PerioGard mouthwash. I rinsed 15 ml for 30 seconds, spit it out, then avoided drinking or swallowing for about 2 hours (I just spit it all out). Then I rinsed with water and went to bed.
I slept on my back because I had heard about people waking up with bloody drool on their pillow, and I kept the T3 and a glass of water nearby in case I woke up with pain in the morning.
End of first day.
Gum Graft Experience Posts