I'm so lucky that I still live with my parents, because my mom went to the grocery store on Friday before my surgery and purchased all sorts of soft foods for me to eat for a week.
Thanks to a combination of genetics, brushing my gums way too hard, rotten luck and possibly braces (although I only had them on my bottom teeth for three months), I have gum recession at the age of 25. I knew for a while that this was an issue, but I figured that I could live with it for many more years. I proved myself wrong while brushing my teeth (probably too hard) a few weeks ago and suddenly felt an incredible amount of sensitivity on the bottom of one of my lower left molars. I went to my dentist, and he gave me desensitizing ointment and a referral to a periodontist (a.k.a. the doctor of the gums).
I saw the periodontist soon after that, and I learned that I had to get surgery. He scheduled me to get two procedures: a free gingival graft and a frenectomy. A free gingival graft involves taking a small piece of donor tissue from the roof of the mouth (which is the same tissue as our gums) and putting it on the areas of the gums with the severe recession. A frenectomy involves surgically reshaping the frenulum. The frenum (plural) in our mouth are the tissues that connect our lips to our gums (there are other types in our mouth besides those). You can feel it in front of your center teeth, top or bottom, with your tongue. My bottom frenulum is very tight and actually pulls down on my gums, so I needed to get it released (or cut).
I was very calm at the office as we scheduled the first of my appointments (I have to get the procedure two times). I felt great and super excited about having my gums fixed until I went home and browsed the internet for images and horror stories of free gingival grafts. Ooops. I spent the next 13 days pretending that the surgery wasn't going to happen, and I then I got a cold. I was sure that I wouldn't be allowed to get it the next day since I was having a respiratory infection and my mouth was surely a reservoir for spreading disease, but they told me the morning of the procedure that I could come in as long as I wasn't vomiting. Damn.
After that, my wonderful mother went out and bought me all of that soft food and then she took me to the office. An hour and a half later, I left with a smile on my face. Really. No joke. You would think that over an hour of being awake and alert while this doctor sliced apart my poor mouth would have been brutal, but it really wasn't. I was only scared when he pulled out the Novocaine needle (I've never had it before). That needle was the only pain I ever felt the entire procedure. My doctor was also so funny that I was laughing the entire time. I was never so distracted that I forgot what was going on in my mouth, but he (and his assistant) made the experience so much easier for me.
It's been almost three days now, and I've hardly been in any pain. The top of my mouth feels like a pizza burn (so not that bad), and my lower gums are only slightly uncomfortable at times. It's really awkward to eat since I can only chew on one side, and I have to make sure not to pull on my lower lip (or brush my teeth down there). The new tissue takes about 3-4 days to attach to the bone, and any tampering with that can make the graft fail. I'm also taking antibiotics three times a day for a week, and I have all sorts of pain meds (that I don't really use). My face is also a little swollen, but it's nothing terrible (or maybe it's because I'm eating so much ice cream!).
I'm going back to the office on Friday for a check-up and to remove any sutures that have not already dissolved. Then, I'll go back in a few months for one more graft on one of my upper teeth. I'm not scared about it, because this procedure was basically a piece of cake. Trust me, it sounds much scarier than it really is.
You just have to make sure that you have a good doctor. If anybody needs a recommendation for a good periodontist in the suburbs of Chicago, let me know!