Gum contouring is the name that refers to both gum lifts (removing excess tissue to treat a gummy smile) and gum grafts (replacing lost tissue to treat gum recession). 

Any reshaping to improve the profile of the gum tissue by raising or lowering it is included within the umbrella of contouring. 

Gum Lift - Before and After bunker hill dentistry

Gum Lift – Before and After

Despite requiring slightly different dental techniques, both alterations to the gums lead to similar healing processes. 

Understanding the recovery times and best behaviors for good healing will prepare you for any kind of gum contouring procedure here at Bunker Hill Dentistry.


How Long Does Recovery Take?

Most gum contouring procedures require anywhere from one week to one to two months to fully heal. 

The extensiveness of the work largely determines the healing window. If a lot of gum tissue is grafted or removed, healing is likely to take multiple weeks or a month. If only a small amount of tissue is removed, healing is likely to take only a few days instead. 

In general, procedures carried out with a scalpel will have a longer recovery period than contouring that utilizes lasers since the cutting of tissue requires sutures (stitches). 

Gum lifts tend to take slightly less time for recovery than grafts, but it’s only a case of a few days of difference in most cases. 

Extensive grafts can take up to 8 weeks to completely heal. Taking care of your tissue during the first few weeks in particular is essential to avoiding pain, the risk of infection, and rejection issues.


Tips for Pain Management After Gum Contouring

As the anesthesia from the procedure wears off, patients may encounter varying levels of pain. 

For mild laser or lift sculpting treatments, there is likely to be little pain at all. 

Over-the-counter pain treatments should be sufficient for lifts and minor grafts that are sore after the treatment. Using an ice pack on the affected area for 15 minutes at a time for the first couple of days post-procedure can help reduce pain and swelling.

Pain should fade within the first few days even for more advanced grafts and lifts. 

Gum contouring can cause swelling, which can be uncomfortable even if there is little actual pain. The swelling is normal immediately after contouring, but it may need attention if it returns suddenly or doesn’t subside after a few days. 

If pain and swelling are bothersome after a particularly advanced gum graft or lift, the dentist can always prescribe you some anti-inflammatory medication to help. 


Physical Activity Limitations

Take your time and rest for the first few days after any gum surgery, even a relatively mild one. You can return to seated and non-strenuous work the next day or after one day of rest in most cases. 

For active and strenuous activities, avoid them for at least the first week. Too much activity, including workouts at the gym, sends extra blood pumping to the gum tissue. This increases inflammation, leading to swelling and pain. 

For a more extensive gum graft, you may need to stay in bed and limit your physical activity for at least a week. Getting up and moving around the house should be fine, but take time off work unless you have a job that can easily accommodate your need for physical rest.


Eating and Drinking Without Pain

Many people are concerned that undergoing a gum contouring procedure will leave them eating only soft foods for weeks. 

Since the gum tissue begins to heal rapidly, most food restrictions are only recommended for the first few days to a week at the most. 

Slower recovery periods still generally only require limitations of the spiciest and sharpest foods for up to a month. 

Unlike extractions and wisdom tooth removals, gum contouring procedures create relatively little exposed tissue that could be irritated by certain foods. 

Still, try to avoid foods like:

  • Small seeds like poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia, or seedy fruits like kiwi and raspberries
  • Crunchy foods like chips or popcorn
  • Anything too hard that requires a lot of pressure to bite or which fractures into pieces in the mouth, like hard candy, crackers, and pretzels
  • Spicy or highly acidic foods and drinks, like hot sauce or lemonade, with a high chance of irritating the gums.


Stick to soft and soothing foods for the first few days of recovery. Don’t just indulge in sugary treats like ice cream or flavored yogurts either. 

Try slightly overcooked pasta, blended and broth-based soups, scrambled eggs with melted cheese, mashed potatoes, and vegetables boiled or steamed until soft. 

Eating a wide range of foods during recovery supports good health and fast healing.


Oral Hygiene Requirements for a Speedy Recovery

Careful and gentle brushing is the key to steady healing and a lack of pain during recovery after a gum contouring procedure. 

It’s essential to brush to remove food particles and keep bacteria from interfering with tissue healing. But eager or aggressive brushing will injure the tissue and cause swelling and pain. 

Get an extra soft toothbrush and go slowly over the areas that are affected by the gum lift or graft. 

Use a flossing tool or pre-strung picks to reduce pressure and bumping against the sensitive gum tissue. Floss only once a day to keep from interfering with the tissue healing and avoid the use of toothpicks. Water picks should be discontinued in favor of soft traditional toothbrushes until the healing is complete as well.

Mouthwash is a good idea for encouraging healing, but use an alcohol-free formula. Standard alcohol-based mouthwash is too irritating for exposed and healing gum tissue. 

Mix up a tablespoon of table salt in a 8 oz cup of warm water to make a simple saline wash to use after each meal to wash away food particles without risking irritation to the sensitive tissue.


When to Follow Up with the Dentist?

Your dentist will schedule follow up appointments to check on the healing of your gum grafts in particular. 

For minor to moderate gum lifts, follow up may not be necessary as long as healing goes as planned. If you notice any increase in pain, swelling after the first week, or discoloration and bleeding around the tissue past the first day, contact the dentist. They can schedule a check-up to see what’s going on and deal with any problems promptly. 

Gum contouring generally has a low rate of complications as long as you brush gently twice a day, rinse your mouth after meals, and avoid physical activity for the first few days or weeks after the procedure.


Discuss your options for changing the look of your smile with us today at Bunker Hill Dentistry. We can provide a full spectrum of gum adjustments to get just the look you want.

Learn more about gum contouring procedures at Bunker Hill Dentistry.