It's Not As Bad As That Now!

Poor VAGreg must have had his graft done a long time ago. I just had one done a few days ago and it was nothing like that - the procedure was entirely pain-free (except when the periodontist leaned on my hair . . . ) and the aftermath, while somewhat painful, hasn't exactly been unbearable. I think anasthetics and periodontics must have improved mightily since VAGreg had his procedure!

Like him, I was devastated by the idea of having to have the surgery and did everything I could to avoid it. They said my problems were probably caused by having had orthdontic braces as a teenager (by pulling your teeth around in your mouth, they erode the bone and weaken the seal between tooth and gum) and bad brushing technique (sawing across the gums horizontally, instead of making small, gentle circles at the gumline). My surgery was precipitated by a routine dental cleaning which basically destroyed the seal between my lower left eye tooth and gum. First the gum kind of went floppy and sagged down. Eventually it disappeared, leaving the root of the tooth exposed all the way down to where the lip and gum meet. It didn't hurt too much but was uncomfortable and just felt wrong.

Anyway, the night before the surgery they had me take 2 Valium, and then another Valium, a Vicodin (strong painkiller) and an antibiotic an hour before the procedure. I was also terrified about the palatal anasthetic as I'd had a lot of work done on my teeth as a teenager (the dreaded braces) and still remember the intense pain of that injection like it was yesterday. It's like someone's drilling up through your skull - just horrible. Well, the periodontist used topical anasthesia for all the injection, and while I can't say any of them were fun, the palatal one especially was absolutely nothing at all like the hell I remembered. I felt uncomfortable pressure, but no pain.

I also felt nothing at all when he removed the palatal graft and then placed stitches in the site, or when he sewed the graft to my gum (which was also heavily anasthetized). In fact, I was pretty much half asleep for most of the procedure (yay Valium) and only really came to when he leaned on my hair and it hurt!

After the procedure they covered up the wound sites with some sort of hard dental cement, doped me up on lots of Vicodin for the rest of the day and had me ice my face to reduce the swelling. Basically I spent the whole day dozing between painkiller doses, more or less pain-free. At night you have to prop yourself up on a couple of pillows, I guess so everything drains properly. You can't lift anything heavy or do any vigorous exercise for a week, either.

Post-op day 2 was not fun - my face blew up (despite the ice), the painkillers were making me feel nauseated, and I couldn't eat much anyway, just yogurt and gooey things. My jaw ached where the periodontist had wrestled with my face (he had warned me that would happen). The worst part, though, was the nasty cement packing on the wound sites - it's like having chewing gum stuck to the roof of your mouth and your gum and you can't get it off. Drives you crazy and you can't eat on that side in case you dislodge it. (I also wasn't allowed to have anything hot, which meant two ice cubes in my morning coffee!)

By day 3 things were a bit better; it just stung a little right at the base of the graft. It sort of felt like when you cut yourself, say on the hand, a little deeply and then get in the shower and it stings. Now I'm post-op day 4 and am on nothing stronger than 6-hourly doses of Tylenol Extra-Strength. I'm getting the packing and stitches out in a couple of days (which I'm a bit apprehensive about, but looking forward to). Apparently the dressing has to be changed once a week for two more weeks.

I've been told I have to have more of this done (my whole mouth, basically), though the rest isn't as badly eroded so it can be done with human donor (yes, dead people) tissue, which apparently now has a high success rate (things have moved on, I guess, since the cow tissue days). I'm not thrilled about the idea, but this whole event really was a lot less awful than I'd feared, and it was the most invasive kind (palatal auto-graft).

I wrote this because I didn't want people who might need the procedure to get scared off by poor VAGreg's experience. When I think back to my teenage dental experience, dentistry seems to have only emerged just now from the dark ages in terms of pain management. But they really seem to have it down to a fine art now. So don't let your teeth fall out because of fear - it's really a very manageable procedure (and if it's not, you need to find a new periodontist).
Parallel Parallel
31-35, F
4 Responses Aug 15, 2006


mine was $1500 per quadrant (4 teeth per quadrant). I had two quadrants (8 teeth) done at once so it was $3000. not bad (for him) for a 90 minute procedure (he was there for about 60 minutes of).

Dude my Perio assistant pulled out my hair the other day on accident! Crazy!<br />
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A gingival graft is like a thousand bucks, I think, madamescorpio.