There are advantages to using lasers (amplified light) in the dental office, especially periodontal treatment.
If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Many adults currently have some form of the disease which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases teeth are lost. Whether your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse, depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums daily, from this point forward.
What causes gum disease?
Our mouths are full of bacteria, which, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless plaque on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of this plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing doesn’t clean. Only professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, inflammation around the tooth. In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called pockets) that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If it is not treated, bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. Teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
Symptoms of gum disease include:
Persistent bad breath, red or swollen gums, tender or bleeding gums, painful chewing, loose teeth, sensitive teeth, receding gums or longer appearing teeth.
Any of these symptoms may be a sign of a serious problem, which should be checked by a dentist. Your dentist or hygienist should ask about your medical history to identify underlying conditions or risk factors that may contribute to gum disease, examine your gums, note any signs of inflammation, and use a tiny ruler called a probe to check for and measure any pockets. In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets is usually between one and three millimeters. This pocket depth test is usually painless. Often x-rays are taken to see whether there is any bone loss.
How is gum disease treated?
The main goal of treatment is to control infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking.
Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing)
Plaque and tartar are removed through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Scaling means scraping off tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where germs gather, and helps remove disease-causing bacteria.
In the past, surgery was the gold standard to reduce the periodontal pocket and facilitate keeping the area clean. This involved lifting back the gums, removing the tartar and then suturing the gums back in place to fit snugly around the tooth. This sometimes results in the teeth appearing longer. Bone grafts, in addition to flap surgery, are often attempted to help promote bone growth. Unfortunately, bone grafting around teeth is not as predictable as we would like it to be.
Laser Periodontal Therapy (LANAP)
There now exists a revolutionary treatment for periodontal disease called LANAP (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure). LANAP has many advantages over conventional flap surgery and bone grafting. First, the gums do not need to be flapped open and precious gum tissue is not cut away. Second, because the gums are not flapped, there are no sutures. These two advantages alone save a lot of pain, swelling and elongated teeth that are associated with flap surgery.
However, the main advantage of LANAP is reduction of deep pockets by assisting gums to attach to the tooth and enabling bone to grow around the teeth. This strengthens the teeth and can reverse damage done by the disease. LANAP does not remove precious tissue; it helps rebuild the foundation around the teeth. It is a one-time treatment. Most patients experience very little discomfort and in almost all cases no swelling. Some return to work the same day.
LANAP is the only FDA approved laser procedure to treat periodontal disease. If you have periodontal disease and you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call our office for a free, no obligation consultation.
15 Ibn Gevirol Street, Jerusalem