Surgery without papilla incision: tunneling flap procedures in plastic periodontal and implant surgery

Periodontol 2000. 2018 Jun;77(1):123-149. doi: 10.1111/prd.12214. Epub 2018 Mar 1.


Diverse clinical advancements, together with some relevant technical innovations, have led to an increase in popularity of tunneling flap procedures in plastic periodontal and implant surgery in the recent past. This trend is further promoted by the fact that these techniques have lately been introduced to a considerably expanded range of indications. While originally described for the treatment of gingival recession-type defects, tunneling flap procedures may now be applied successfully in a variety of clinical situations in which augmentation of the soft tissues is indicated in the esthetic zone. Potential clinical scenarios include surgical thickening of thin buccal gingiva or peri-implant mucosa, alveolar ridge/socket preservation and implant second-stage surgery, as well as soft-tissue ridge augmentation or pontic site development. In this way, tunneling flap procedures developed from a technique, originally merely intended for surgical root coverage, into a capacious surgical conception in plastic periodontal and implant surgery. The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive overview on tunneling flap procedures, to introduce the successive development of the approach along with underlying ideas on surgical wound healing and to present contemporary clinical scenarios in step-by-step photograph-illustrated sequences, which aim to provide clinicians with guidance to help them integrate tunneling flap procedures into their daily clinical routine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dental Implantation, Endosseous / methods*
  • Esthetics, Dental*
  • Gingivoplasty / methods*
  • Humans
  • Periodontal Diseases / surgery*
  • Surgical Flaps*