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How I Recovered Quickly From Gum Grafting Surgery

After getting gum grafting surgery, I wanted to recover as quickly as possible because of of an upcoming event. This is how I did it.

In my surgery with Dr. Chertok, a periodontist in Berkeley, a flap in the roof of my mouth was opened (see top left photo for an idea) and used to plump up the recessed gums around one of my teeth.

In my surgery with Dr. Chertok, a periodontist in Berkeley, a flap in the roof of my mouth was opened (see top left photo for an idea) and used to plump up the recessed gums around one of my teeth.

Getting Gum Grafting Surgery

When I first discovered that I needed gum grafting surgery, I was horrified. I needed to get a series of these procedures done, and to make the most of my dental insurance coverage, I needed to get the first gum grafting surgery before the end of the year. My surgery was scheduled for December 19th, and I had a big, four-day event to go to starting on the 28th.

Some of the potential ramifications of gum grafting surgery include:

  • Facial swelling
  • Facial bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty eating

I was really concerned that I would turn up at my conference looking like I was a secret member of Fight Club!

To make sure I recovered as quickly as possible, I adhered to ALL of my periodontist's advice with regard to post-surgery treatments and behaviors. Based on my experience, here are the most important things to do to ensure a quick recovery.

What Is It Like?

If you would like to learn more about the procedure and what it's like to have it done, read my article on getting gum grafting surgery.

Graft One Tooth at a Time

The more teeth you have grafted, the longer and more difficult a recovery you will have. If you, like me, have somewhere important and public to go shortly after your procedure, just get one tooth handled for now. Your recovery will be swifter and less painful.

In my case, I have a total of seven teeth that will eventually need grafting. I could get them all done in one sitting, but the recovery would be far more intense.

As you can see from the images of my mouth to the right, just one procedure involved opening up a flap of skin in the roof of my mouth and moving a bunch of the material from under that flap to the area around the recessed gums on the other side. Just that has half of my mouth out of commission—imagine what more would do!

While I'm all for getting things over in big batches, this is not something to batch if you need to recover quickly.

My lovely ice pack! A gift from my mother, actually. Bless that saintly woman!

My lovely ice pack! A gift from my mother, actually. Bless that saintly woman!

Ice After Surgery

My periodontist sent me home with an ice pack after surgery- the kind that you break up and that becomes instantly cold. I bought another one and iced my face on and off for 20-minute periods after returning home.

When I went to bed, I wrapped an ice pack in a tea towel and slept on it. You might want to put a protective towel over your pillows and not use a very nice tea towel . . . I woke up to find some blood on mine.

Sterile gauze—safety first!

Sterile gauze—safety first!

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Don't Play With the Dressing, Apply More if Bleeding Gets Intense

A dissolvable dressing was placed over a stitched-closed wound at the roof of my mouth after the procedure, and I was told to leave it alone (many patients are tempted to mess with it with their tongues).

Even when you avoid touching it, the dang thing gets pulled at as you eat/drink/talk (bad, bad, bad!). I accidentally swallowed some of mine the morning after the procedure, which was a bloody, gross, and unenjoyable experience, so . . . yeah . . . just try to leave that thing alone until it falls off all by itself.

Now, if bleeding becomes more intense, one is instructed to take a clean piece of gauze and wipe out any clots that one can see, then firmly place a clean piece of damp gauze or (and this surprised me) a tea bag directly over the bleeding spot, then repeat if necessary.

Of course, you should call your periodontist right away if the bleeding can't be stopped—and again, cover your pillows with a big towel. I missed a spot and am kicking myself for it!

This is me the morning after the procedure. Just a bit of swelling. I hate not talking, but if that's what it takes to avoid bruising and get the swelling down, I'll go for it!

This is me the morning after the procedure. Just a bit of swelling. I hate not talking, but if that's what it takes to avoid bruising and get the swelling down, I'll go for it!

Avoid Talking

In general, the more you talk, the more you stretch out your mouth.

It is therefore a good idea to keep talking to a minimum, especially for the first two to three days after surgery.

It is not advised that you go into the office, though I was told it's fine to work from home (which is what I opted to do).

NOT talking is surprisingly hard. You have no idea. That said, you gotta do what you gotta do.

I'll be eating a lot of applesauce now. And yes, that's a Photoshopped image of me being gazed upon by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (my hair used to be super short).

I'll be eating a lot of applesauce now. And yes, that's a Photoshopped image of me being gazed upon by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (my hair used to be super short).

Eat Soft Foods

For two weeks after the procedure, gum grafting surgery patients are told to eat soft foods. This means things like:

  • Oatmeal
  • Polenta
  • Smoothies
  • Soft tofu
  • Very soft fish
  • Applesauce

In addition to avoiding hard foods like toast, chips, cookies, al dente pasta, etc., I was told to avoid things that have small seeds or fragments that can get caught in my stitches (EW EW EW EW).

Eat on the Unaffected Side of Your Mouth

At the end of my surgery, a dissolvable dressing was placed at the stitched-closed wound at the top of my mouth from which flesh was harvested for the grafting. To help this area heal faster, try to keep food (and your tongue) on the OTHER side of your mouth (or if this is at the front, move food to the back).

When eating non-liquid but still super soft stuff, cut it into very small pieces. This can reduce the amount of chewing you do, and it'll also make life easier when it hurts to open your mouth or swelling in your face makes it hard to do so.

Chew using teeth far, far away from the tooth/teeth that had grafting done. You don't want to disturb the wounds or get food caught in the stitches.

Special mouthwash. Yaaaay. =__=

Special mouthwash. Yaaaay. =__=

Don't Brush the Affected Area

This should come as a no-brainer, but it's worth repeating. It is, however, okay for you to brush the rest of your mouth.

After two days, I was told it is okay to brush the chewing side of the teeth that have had grafting work done around them, and after one day, it's OK to use the rinse they give you.

That said, you're supposed to GENTLY slosh it around your mouth. None of that rigorous sloshing they do in the Listerine commercials, those batty actors...

Avoid Exercise

I practically live on an elliptical machine, and exercise is my number-one work booster, so I was devastated to hear that people who have just gotten gum grafting surgery have to avoid exercise.

Apparently, during the first week, rigorous exercise can worsen swelling, bleeding, and bruising, and the first 24 hours are the most crucial period. If you do anything, at least "be a couch potato", as my surgical assistant told me, for the first day. Exercise after that should be pretty low-key.

Worth a try if you're desperate!

Worth a try if you're desperate!

Consider Arnica Gel and Tablets

Finally, my periodontist recommended arnica gel as an alternative, supplementary means of reducing bruising. While it is not a proven medical cure, many people swear by arnica gel and tablets to reduce bruising (or prevent it altogether).

Because I am utterly desperate to heal quickly, I went for the stuff and applied it three times daily. While I can't say it was the arnica gel that prevented me from bruising altogether, I can say that visible bruises never came, so it might have made a difference.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Shawn on January 28, 2020:

I'm finished week one after having 3 teeth grafted. I would not recommend sedation for the procedure. The pain from the freezing would probably be the same as the sedation. The freezing also wore off faster then with a cavity filling. The freezing wore off after 2 hours so expect the pain to come on fast. The pain is mostly a throbbing sensation from the swelling and pulling of the stitches. It was sore for about a week. A combination of Advil and Tylenol took away the pain.

DebM on August 16, 2019:

I was born with a cleft pallet, which makes this procedure hard to handle. I cannot put my orthodontic retainer in as the scare tissue from the cleft pallet repair shrinks with out the retainer, hence the orthodontic retainer does not fit and the pallet is extremely sore.

Suzydthatisme on April 30, 2019:

This is all good advice. I had this procedure yesterday and it was no big deal. They freeze you so nothing hurts while they're doing it. Afterwords it's a bit sore for the first 24 hours but Tylenol works fine. Don't fret over this - it's not a biggie.

Glen Rix from UK on October 05, 2018:

It sounds horrific! Hope it was all worthwhile :)

JoAnna on February 19, 2018:

Gee thanks for the graphic description. I will be having the surgery next week. I was dreading it, and now I'm terrified. I'm sure you mean to be helpful, but all you've done is increase my anxiety.

Christine Mercante on February 08, 2018:

Another Homeopathic remedy that helped when my sister felt pulling and more pain a few days later was Hypericum 30c for damage to nerve endings. You can get this from a health food store or the Vitamin Shop. I gave her one or two doses of this. She is now 10 days into healing with this. She smokes which does not help either. She has days when she has no pain and then eats something and smokes and days when she has pain. When she stayed with me I could be of more help by observing and prescribing. I can do nothing about the smoking!

Christine Mercante on January 30, 2018:

My sister is going to have this procedure done tomorrow. I intend to give her an Arnica 30c before and after surgery. I will not be using a cream because you are not supposed to put arnica on an open wound. I know this because I am a Homeopath and this is what we teach. You can put it close to it or on the out side of the mouth, but not on an open wound. I will continue to give her one pellet once a day for a week. You can also use an ARNICA 200c but you do not repeat it as frequently. So, for beginners, always stay with a 30c or lower by mouth. Arnica reduces swelling, bleeding and bruising. How do I know? My husband fell on his head and got a big gash over his eyebrow. I ran and got Arnica 200c because it was bleeding badly. Next day, no swelling and no bruising. He hit hard. Yes, it does work. I use it for surgeries and all accidents and then proceed to the emergency room as needed. It does not react with any other drugs if needed at the emergency room. I keep it where I can get at it quickly. The more intense the injury, the higher you want to go in potency. A small bump, just use the cream.

Jillian on January 06, 2018:

My doctor told me no ice. I am so swollen. I wish i could use ice but I was told it would affect the graft :(

Amy Walters on August 24, 2017:

Thank you for what he told me yesterday. I hurt.

Rudy on May 02, 2017:

Thank you, Simone, for the detailed description, I found it helpful. I look forward (so to speak) to getting 7 done at once. All or nothing, I say!

Cynthia on April 22, 2017:

Thank you so much for this article, it has really helped me.

TruthChick on January 09, 2017:

I just had the Pinhole Technique on Friday... (invented by and was performed by Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA)...I went in for the 24 hour post op check up on Sat. and ate lunch with the crew....salad, potato salad, al dente steamed veggies, steak and fish, Yum!!! It is now Monday and the swelling which was actually minimal, is nearly gone.

This technique is quick, not As invasive as the normal slice and dice and by the next day, the Pinhole, (the hole he creates which is used to fix the recession,) was Nearly discernible! Wishing you luck and he Does teach the technique to docs from all around the world and there May be a licensed Pinhole Technique doc near you! Thanks for the pix and the info!

Lisa on October 04, 2016:

Is Arnica equivalent to clove oil? My procedure is coming up. Thanks for the advice! I had a dry socket once (very painful!) and it was the clove oil that saved me. No drugs would touch the pain!

gyj on September 30, 2016:

how long until my stitches com off?

hell on September 29, 2016:

this article was my pocket partner all the time,on my gum graft recovery. well it still continues. i''m on the 6th day and it has been a hell for me because i was eating hard to keep up with work out schedule and this procedure broke that lovely diet apart. to all of you who are going to have gum graft, prepare yourself. eat a ton before going out if you don't want your mates to watch you with an about-to-laugh face while you're holding the spoon on your mouth like you're a spartian strategician measuring the whole path the soup will go in your mouth to your throat. well since i can't talk a lot i guess it makes me write long sentences to satisfy my needs. read all lines on this article carefully,as all of them meansa lot,at some time of everyday you will remember a line from this article as it occurs,as if you're recalling it from the babel. be safe,keep your wild tongue from the little cute palate.

shubhosree on September 01, 2016:

thank you..I m going through this condition..I have extracted my third molar or wisdom tooth.

Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on February 26, 2015:

Thank you miss Semone. I am glad . You wtote and article about how to treat the gum after surgery. It is good to know the cure for parts of our body that are sensitive. Thank you for mentioning and showing the picture of the gel. You are good. I like your hub. I am going to keep your advice in my mind in case. I need it some day.

Chachou on October 08, 2014:

I have signed up with just to say a HUGE thank you for this GREAT GREAT article! I have printed it and I read it each day since I had 6 teeth grafted. It had been a very useful article in my case. Thanks a lot I really didn't know what to expect and thanks to this article I was ready and confident!

I really recommend this surgery to be done ONCE OFF as the pain is quite intense even with pain tablets. On Tuesday last week I went for the gum surgery and on Sunday my gums were looking great already. Everyday it is healing fast. But now my palate is extremely sore as I lost the "patty" every time I eat something cold and soft or even just a drink, it is very very sore, bleeding now and again.

The very important part is to choose your gum specialist very carefully. I have paid the price but it was worthy. I have no regret. I am going next week Tuesday for a check up..let's see what the specialist say!

I have followed this article word by word but the eating part is a pain. 2 weeks of eating soft food, driking yogurt seem endless.....

Thanks a mil for this brilliant, detailed article.


Frank on September 14, 2014:

Had gum surgery two months later still feel discomfort is this till the healing

Terri on February 10, 2014:

I am going in for this procedure next week. Thanks for you article, it helps me get a idea of what to expect. I am having two teeth done (front bottom) at the same time and then will go back again for two others which are from aggressive brushing (who would have thought). Unfortunately it's the week of my niece's first birthday but my sister has told me, she will have some yummy homemade soup for me :)

Fluffy on September 24, 2013:

Did you apply arnica gel directly on your gums? I love arnica!

Thanks for the info! It has really helped me.

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 20, 2013:

Isn't it though, RTalloni!! I am so glad to have been introduced to arnica gel- and thank you for the kind words!

RTalloni on May 03, 2013:

Oh me, and bless your heart (really)!

Arnica gel is fabulous stuff. It can work wonders and I've no doubt that you benefitted greatly. So glad that's all done and you are better!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on January 18, 2013:

Aw, thanks Sunshine625. God bless pain killers! It wasn't bad at all. :D

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on January 16, 2013:

Ouch!! I don't even like having a cavity filled, I can't imagine going through this procedure. You are a trooper!!

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