Gingivoplasty or Gingivectomy? FAQs on Gum Contouring Surgery

gum contouring
  • Gingivoplasty treats a wide variety of medical and cosmetic concerns, including congenital issues and those caused by disease.
  • The procedure can be done using surgical blades, electrosurgery, and even lasers.
  • Gingivoplasty may be covered by insurance, depending on why you’re getting it.

Gingivoplasty, also known as gingival sculpting or gum contouring, is a surgical procedure that reshapes the gums around the teeth. It may be conducted on its own or in conjunction with a gingivectomy or gum graft.

The procedure may be performed to eliminate pockets between the gum and the teeth associated with periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease or gum disease. Gingivoplasty also correct gum deformities caused by genetics, trauma, or other diseases.

What is the difference between gingivoplasty and gingivectomy?

The terms gingivoplasty and gingivectomy are often interchangeable, as they are frequently done in the same operation. However, gingivoplasty technically refers to the surgical reshaping of healthy gum tissue, while gingivectomy refers to the removal of diseased gum tissue.

If you are getting a gingivoplasty to treat pockets caused by gum disease, your dentist will likely perform a gingivectomy as well to remove diseased tissue and reshape the remaining tissue.

Gingivoplasties that are intended to treat cosmetic concerns may or may not involve gum trimming. As this gum tissue is not diseased and the trimming is often minimal, it is not technically considered a gingivectomy.

Occasionally, a gingivoplasty may include a gum graft, where gum tissue is added instead of trimmed. This is most often done to treat receding gum lines.

Who should get gum reshaping surgery?

Gum disease is extremely common. According to the American Dental Association, about 47.2% of American adults over the age of 30 have some form of the condition. This is not to say that half of American adults need a gingivoplasty.

Gum disease varies widely in severity. If your gum disease is mild, then there are some noninvasive treatments that may help you reverse it. However, as gum disease progresses, it creates large pockets between the teeth and the gums.

If left untreated, these pockets will lead to tooth decay and loss. In this case, gingivoplasties and gingivectomies can help in the later stages of gum disease to get rid of bacteria-filled pockets.

Gums can also suffer from a variety of deformities unrelated to gum disease:

  • Cleft gums — Some people are born with breaks in the gum known as clefts. Others get clefts as a result of necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (NUG). Depending on the severity, this condition can have long term impacts on dental health.
  • Gum craters — Gums can develop craters, either from birth, trauma, or diseases like NUG. These craters look like small, and sometimes, unsightly depressions where the gum meets the teeth.
  • Asymmetrical gums — Gums may appear uneven due to birth defects or damage.
  • Enlarged gums — Gums that swell up and cover more of the teeth than is aesthetically desired.

A gingivoplasty can help with all of these conditions.

How does a gingivoplasty work?

You’ll start your journey with a consultation during which you and your dentist will discuss how your gums will look after the surgery and how much, if any, tissue will be removed. During this time, your dentist may use a pen to mark your new gum line. You may also get a thorough dental cleaning.

At the onset of surgery, you’ll receive a local anesthetic to numb the area. The details of the procedure that follows will depend on why you are getting your gingivoplasty.

Process for treating gum disease:

  • Periodontal Probe — This tool is inserted into the unwanted pockets and used to measure their depth.
  • Gingivectomy — Any diseased tissue is removed. This is usually done using surgical blades, like a scalpel and scissors. It can also be done with lasers or electrosurgery.
  • Cleaning — Once cleared of diseased tissue, the area is thoroughly cleaned, a process known as root planing. Tartar (calculus) and plaque are completely removed.
  • Reshaping — The gum is recontoured to the teeth. This is done using periodontal knives, electrodes, or diamond burs.
  • Dressing — Periodontal dressing is a clay like material that holds the new gum line in place as the gum heals.

General cosmetic process:

  • Trimming — Your dentist may or may not remove small amounts of excess gum tissue as part of the contouring process. This is done with the same tools as a gingivectomy.
  • Reshaping — The gum is contoured to the teeth for an optimal cosmetic result.
  • Dressing — The periodontal dressing seals the gum in place.

A single procedure can take anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour, depending on the size of the treatment area.

What is recovery after gingivoplasty like?

You will likely be sent home with pain medication and antibacterial mouthwash. You will also be given strict instructions regarding the treated area:

  • Keep the area clean and free from irritation.
  • Keep your diet soft and bland. Tough or spicy foods are more likely to irritate the area.
  • Keep your teeth clean with regular flossing and brushing, without directly flossing or brushing the treated area until told by your dentist.
  • Do not remove the dressing until instructed to do so by your dentist. The dressing will likely stay in place for about 2 weeks. If it begins to dislodge on its own, contact your dentist immediately.

Recovery from a gingivoplasty takes a while. Your gums will start to look natural again after about a month. However, it will be about 3 months before they are fully healed.

Can there be any complications?

Gingivoplasty comes with a minimal risk of infection, which can be successfully avoided with proper postsurgical care.

Contact your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding that persists after the first couple of days.
  • Bleeding that seems excessive and interferes with daily activities.
  • Signs of infection (severe inflammation or pus-like discharge).
  • Prescribed painkillers are ineffective against the pain.
  • The dressing becomes loose or falls off too soon.

In addition to the usual healing stages, you may notice swollen lymph nodes after surgery. This is a relatively common occurrence after dental surgery. Do let your dentist know what you’re experiencing, but don’t panic. It’s likely nothing to be concerned about.

How much does a gingivoplasty cost?

The cost depends on the size of treatment area and the purpose of the procedure.

Cosmetic gingivoplasties cost an average of $235 for one to three consecutive teeth; treating four or more teeth can cost about $425.

Gingivoplasties for the treatment of periodontal pockets tend to be more costly, ranging from $190-$300 for a single tooth, $500-$850 for a quadrant of the mouth, and $2,000-$4,000 for the whole mouth.

Pricing is difficult to predict without an examination. For more precise pricing, consult with your dentist about your specific needs.

Are gingivoplasties covered by insurance?

Gingivoplasties performed in conjunction with gingivectomies for the treatment of periodontal pockets are more likely to be, at least, partly covered by insurance. However, if your gingivoplasty is purely cosmetic, then you are almost certainly going to be saddled with the whole bill.

For convenience, many dental offices have payment plans that can offset the burden of having to pay the full amount right away. When you go in for your consultation, talk to your dentist about these options. There’s no reason you can’t get the smile you deserve!

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