Periodontal disease is the condition in which plaque and calculus have infiltrated the gum tissues and have begun to destroy the supporting bone in which your teeth are anchored. While the early stages of periodontal disease are not painful, there are warning signs that patients should be aware of:
- Reddened gums
- Bleeding from the gums
- Gum line recession
- Bad breath
- Changes in tooth alignment and spacing
- Loose teeth
- Swollen gums
- Abscesses on the gums and discharge of pus from the gums
As the disease advances, patients may experience soreness around their teeth, painful chewing, and tooth sensitivity. Dentists assess gum health by measuring the pocket depth between each tooth and the gum with a handheld probe-like ruler. Dental radiographs reveal the extent of bone loss beneath the gum line. If periodontal disease is diagnosed, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist, who will discuss treatment options.
gingival flap surgery
If your periodontal disease is advanced, your periodontist may recommend a procedure that is commonly known as gingival flap surgery. This procedure involves cutting away a flap of the gum line so that the periodontist can access the full roots of your teeth, from which he or she cleans away debris and bacteria. If bone has deteriorated, the doctor will smooth out any pits or depressions in the bone, and bone grafting to encourage regrowth of bone may be performed before closing the flap. Traditionally, gingival flap surgery was performed by making incisions along the gum line to create the flap, some tissue was cut away and the procedure was concluded by stitching the flap back into place. For many patients, this slice and stitch method resulted in lengthy and painful healing times.
An increasing number of larger dental practices are incorporating the Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP) in lieu of the abovementioned traditional surgical protocol. LANAP is the only periodontal laser treatment method that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This technology is no longer new, but the equipment is costly to own and maintain, and dentists and periodontists who opt to employ LANAP in their practices require extensive specialized training. The dental community is realizing that the expense and effort is balanced out by having the ability to perform a less invasive periodontal treatment plan that is received more favorably by their patients. LANAP enables doctors to accurately remove debris while sparing healthy gum tissue. Some additional advantages of LANAP over traditional surgery include:
- Less pain and postoperative discomfort
- Faster healing time of 24 hours
- Less bleeding
- Decreased chances of disease reoccurrence
- Dramatically reduced gum recession
- Decreased tooth sensitivity
Because there is less bleeding and a lower risk for infection, LANAP is a favorable choice for treating periodontal disease in patients with diabetes or with heart conditions that increase the risks for infections, those with compromised immune systems and those on blood thinning medications.
Both the traditional gingival flap surgical procedure and LANAP are performed with the use of local oral anesthetics. Depending upon the severity of periodontal disease, gingival flap surgery must be performed in two to four sessions, while LANAP may be carried out in one to two sessions. Be sure to follow your periodontist's postoperative care instructions carefully to ensure a smooth, quick and complete recovery.
After either procedure, you will be required to undergo frequent dental examinations and cleanings to maintain the achieved level of oral health, which is also essential in preserving your overall health for years to come. For more information, talk to a family dentist.