I've been forgetting up until now to write down the stuff the periodontist told me after the surgery to attach the gum grafts.
He told me that they had to carefully use extremely gentle pressure to slowly push my existing mucous membranes away from the relevant teeth until they had created a sort of pocket of space between my own tissue and my teeth, into which the donor gum tissue could be inserted. So the donor gums are between my own gums and my teeth, where they will not be visible.
He told me that these grafts will not change the appearance of my gums or help them to heal, really; they will only prevent the gums in those locations from receding further. There's nothing that can be done to actually better their situation. I have no remaining gum tissue on those teeth, and so the grafts had to be attached to the mucous membranes of the inside of my mouth, where they attached right below where my gums should be.
When pushing my mucous membranes away from those teeth to create the space for the grafts, Dr. Cangini apparently discovered quite a bit of bone loss underneath, where it had not previously been entirely visible. Lucky me.
At least I found out about this before I actually lost the teeth (which frequently happens to me, as with many other people, in my dreams). I may still lose them, since they suffered so much damage before being treated.
I'd been noticing the receding of my gums in those locations for the past few years, but I didn't realize that it presented such a big problem. I figured it was largely cosmetic, and I didn't care about that, especially since they are bottom teeth. I'd been meaning to talk to my dentist about it, but he hadn't mentioned it on my previous visits until this year when he urged me to see the periodontist as soon as possible. Um ... shouldn't he have recommended this sooner, before the situation became so severe? Well, that's all in the past & there's no benefit in being angry about it. There's also no benefit in being angry at myself, since I had no idea of the seriousness of the situation.
Apparently, many factors contribute to this kind of severe gum recession. Genetics is one, but having had braces is apparently another considerable contributing factor. The dental hygienist told me that a good 2/3 of the dental recession cases she sees are in people who had braces as children. Oral hygiene, of course, is another large contributing factor. I've always been very good about brushing, but my flossing has been sporadic at best, and I haven't been very good about seeing the dentist regularly in the past couple decades, getting a cleaning (with x-rays and exam) every 2 or 3 years. But they always said my teeth and gums looked fine, so I didn't worry & just continued as I had been doing.
Also, I must admit that my oral hygiene suffered during the years when I was severely depressed. All of my hygiene suffered, but neglecting regular showers obviously did not have serious potential consequences as neglecting brushing and flossing.
Ah well. Apparently, my dentist may still need to do something called "bonding" to protect the exposed bone, but Dr. Cangini doesn't know until he sees me for my follow-up appointment a week after the gum graft surgery.
So we'll see. And I'll cross my fingers that I don't start losing teeth in my 40's or 50's.
As it is, I wonder how many other parts of my body are going to end up with implants. First my eyes, and now my mouth. Sheesh!