A gingival (gum) graft is designed to provide a stable band of attached gingiva around the tooth. This barrier prevents further recession and infection. This process also eliminates marginal inflammation, which is usually associated with a mucosal marginal gingival tissue.
When recession of the gingiva occurs, the body loses a natural defense against both bacterial penetration and trauma. When there is only minor recession, some healthy gingiva often remains and protects the tooth, so that no treatment other than modifying home care practices is necessary. However, when recession reaches the mucosa, the first line of defense against bacterial penetration is lost.
For more severe gingival recession no matter how meticulously the patient tries to control the bacteria, there is a greater chance of bacteria penetrating and affecting the underlying supporting bone around the tooth. In addition, gum recession often results in root sensitivity to hot and cold foods as well as an unsightly appearance of the gum and tooth. Also, gum recession, when significant, can predispose to worsening recession and expose the root surface, which is softer than enamel, leading to root caries or root decay and root gouging.