Gum disease (also known as Periodontal disease) is an inflammation of the gum line that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. The three stages of gum disease — from least to most severe — are gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. You may not know whether or not you have gum disease because it is often can be painless. It is important to be aware of any of the following symptoms:
- Swollen, red, tender or bleeding gums
- Receding (teeth moving away from) gums
- Loose teeth
- Bad breath and/or bad taste in mouth
Did you know that 85% of US adults have gum disease? The condition affects mainly adults in their 30s and 40s and is usually caused by:
- Chronic illnesses (i.e. diabetes)
- Genetic inheritance
- Poor oral hygiene
There are a variety of treatment options, all with a common goal: killing the germs, removing the infection and closing up the pockets.
The first recommendation for treatment for the early stages of periodontal disease is usually deep cleaning of all your teeth. The dentist divides the mouth into four quadrants and treats each one in turn. Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical procedure in which the periodontist removes plaque and tartar from below the gum line. Root surfaces are cleaned and smoothed with specially designed instruments. It is important to remove the plaque and tartar from the pockets, because aside from the bacterial toxins that irritate the gums, plaque and the rough surfaces of tartar make it easier for bacteria to gain a foothold. However, it cannot regrow any lost bone or collagen or close the pocket that has formed there. Bacteria can still collect in the spaces between the tooth and gum, allowing germs to multiply and attack the collagen and bone again.
If your early stage gum infection treatment does not work entirely or the disease is moderate or severe, which means many more germs are present than the early stages, your dentist may recommend gum surgery. There are two kinds of gum surgery: traditional surgery and laser surgery.
Traditional periodontal surgery consists of the use of a scalpel to cut and push back the gums to access the tooth root, root cleaning, bone shaping, and then stitching the gums back together at a lower level. The gums may be cut down to reduce the height of the pocket. However, this traditional scalpel and suture surgery carries risks. These risks include the possible removal of so-called “hopeless” teeth, post-operative pain, infections, and the exposure of the tooth root surfaces, which can lead to extreme sensitivity. This conventional surgery also provides a higher risk for cavities on the roots of teeth now exposed as a result of the treatment.
Laser gum treatment is a noninvasive and painless procedure that can treat a wide range of gum conditions with advanced laser technology. This is a safe and affordable treatment that can be used to treat gum disease, repair deep gum pockets, address sore gums and tooth damage, and even improve a gummy smile. During laser gum treatment, no damage or changes are made to healthy teeth and gums. The laser is aimed directly at the targeted area without cutting any gum tissue and seals the area as it treats. There is no need for stitches and minimal risk of infection or bleeding with this conservative yet effective treatment. Most patients report less overall swelling and discomfort.
Consult with your dentist to determine which surgery is the best for you.