Dentistry is about a lot more than just teeth. Your teeth form part of a system that, if not maintained properly, can affect your overall health and wellbeing. That system includes your head, jaw, gums, and teeth. Dental issues related to any of those elements can spread to your digestive and immune system. One of the most common and potentially serious of these non-teeth-related dental issues is periodontal disease — gum disease.
Gum disease is an infection that impacts the tissues and bones that support and grip your teeth. At its earliest stage, it presents as gingivitis and can be addressed with good oral care habits like daily brushing and flossing, and regular professional teeth cleaning. Dentists will also use non-surgical methods such as scaling and root planing to support your oral care habits and eliminate gum disease. If gingivitis is not stopped in its tracks, though, the infection can cause deep pockets of pus and swelling in your gums.
Progressive periodontal disease will cause ligaments to weaken, bone loss in your jaw, and allow the infection to spread throughout your body. Arresting progressive periodontal disease before it becomes extremely serious requires surgery. Laser gum surgery can save your teeth.
How do you know if you have gum disease that may need laser surgery?
During regular dental appointments at Image Dental, your dentist will keep a careful watch for any signs of gum disease and guide you through resolving it before any surgery is necessary. If you’ve been inconsistent in seeing a dentist, haven’t seen one in some time, or are concerned about the symptoms of advanced gum disease, ask yourself these questions.
Reach out to us to discuss treatment options if you say yes to these questions:
- Are there swollen areas on your gums?
- Does it look like your gums are shrinking, or like your teeth are getting longer?
- Do you have persistently sensitive teeth? Does it regularly hurt to chew?
- Do you have halitosis — bad breath — that you can’t seem to get under control?
- Do your teeth feel loose and seem to move in your jaw?
- Do you commonly notice bleeding while or after brushing and flossing?
What is laser gum surgery?
LANAP® laser gum surgery eliminates the need for any incisions and sutures. Laser gum surgeons do not use scalpels. Instead, the laser removes diseased tissue and eliminates bacteria infection without any incision or need for stitches. The intensity and wavelengths of the lasers can be adjusted and tailored to your precise needs. Laser gum surgery removes the infected material without compromising the healthy portions of your gums, teeth, and bones. The laser will seal the treated areas with a fibrin clot without the need for any surgical glue or stitches.
Traditional surgery to resolve serious periodontal disease involves making incisions in your gums with a scalpel, then lifting the tissue away to give the surgeon access to the base of your teeth and below the gumline. The surgeon then removes all accumulated bacteria, tartar, infection, and pus. Once the infection has been cleared, incisions will be made to decrease the pocket depth of the gum line, which will change the physical appearance of your gums and teeth. Once the infection has been removed and the pockets deepened, all incisions will be stitched.
Benefits of laser gum surgery over traditional gum surgery
Laser gum surgery may not be appropriate for the most severe cases of periodontal disease. Those may require traditional gum surgery to eliminate the infection and restore your health. For many patients with advanced and progressive gum disease, though, laser gum surgery offers seven significant advantages over traditional gum surgery.
- The elimination of the need for scalpels, drills, incisions, and stitches makes laser gum therapy much more accessible for patients who experience dental anxiety or phobia.
- Because laser gum surgery does not require incisions or stitches, it is much less painful than traditional surgery. Patients do not usually need pain medication after completing laser surgery.
- Many patients decided to have affected teeth extracted rather than undergo traditional gum surgery. With the option to undergo much less painful laser gum therapy, you’ll have the chance to keep those natural teeth.
- Laser gum surgery is so precisely targeted at only infected tissue, that gum recession (lowering) required during traditional surgery — as much as 10 to 15 mm in the most serious cases — is not necessary and may not occur. With laser gum therapy, the appearance of your healthy gum line will not change.
- Because laser gum surgery does not involve a scalpel, incisions, or stitches, bleeding is uncommon.
- The recovery period following laser gum surgery is approximately 24 hours without any stitches and related risk of infection to be concerned about. This compares to approximately two weeks following much more invasive traditional gum surgery. During at least part of that time, pain medication will likely be necessary.
Traditional surgery effectively removes infected tissue. Laser gum surgery does that and more. Lasers used during surgery stimulate the regeneration of healthy tooth material and gum tissue.
Post-laser surgery care
Any pain or discomfort after laser gum surgery will be minimal and treatable with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, for example). Even though you did not receive any incisions or stitches, small blood clots will still form in your gums following laser surgery.
Those blood clots are extremely important and should be protected. We will provide you with detailed instructions for post-surgery recovery. Many of them will be focused on protecting those clots, including avoiding (or quitting) smoking; avoiding brushing, and flossing until directed.
Following recovery, we will encourage you to renew your commitment to good oral hygiene habits including daily brushing and flossing, dental appointments every six months, and annual professional cleanings. As gentle and effective as laser gum surgery is, no one wants to have to go through it more often than absolutely necessary.
Risks of laser gum surgery
Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with laser gum surgery. Lasers are flexible and powerful tools that our surgeons have received extensive training to use effectively to benefit you. That extensive training and constant learning are necessary to ensure that the proper power levels and wavelengths are used to remove infected tissue without damaging healthy periodontal tissue.
When is laser gum surgery not a treatment option for gum disease?
The most advanced cases of periodontitis can not be treated with laser gum therapy. In those cases, traditional surgery is required to clean and reshape bone material, remove infected tissue, and reshape the gums. Choosing between treatment options is not something you will do alone. We will carefully review your medical history and the current health of your teeth and gums to make recommendations as to the most appropriate approach to restoring your complete health.
Gum disease affects as many as 50% of Americans. The good news is that it can often be prevented or arrested by simple dental care habits or early intervention by a dentist. The bad news is that poor dental habits or inconsistent checkups can mean gum disease advances to the point requiring surgery. The very best news, though, is that you may have the option of laser gum surgery to address serious periodontal disease quickly, painlessly, and — with renewed attention to your oral health — permanently.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of gum disease or want to discuss the full range of treatment options, we would love the chance to speak with you. Prioritize your gum health by requesting an appointment online or calling us at (209) 955-1500.