When fighting periodontal (gum) disease, it’s often necessary to go deep into “enemy” territory — below the gum line — to remove bacterial plaque, a thin film of built up food remnant that fuels the infection. This often requires gum surgery to access these deep areas of infection.
As gum disease advances, the slight natural gap between the gums and teeth can widen to form voids called periodontal pockets that can fill with infection. Pockets that extend more than 4 millimeters below the gum line can’t be reached effectively with oral hygiene techniques like brushing and flossing. As the pockets become deeper, even dentists and hygienists have difficulty with conventional hand instruments called scalers to effectively remove plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits).
As the pockets deepen, surgical procedures are often needed to reach these areas. That allows the dentist to remove all of the plaque and calculus as well as smoothing the root surface free of contaminants. Then, the gums are placed closer to the bone so that gum tissue pockets are removed and become easier to clean.
Surgical lasers offer a new alternative to scalpel surgery. The laser’s narrow beam of light only removes diseased gum tissue without incisions and with minimal disruption of healthy tissue. Because of the color of its light, the laser energy passes through normal gum tissue like sunlight through a glass pane, but heats and vaporizes the much darker diseased cells. Scalers are then used in the open space it creates to remove plaque from the tooth surface.
Besides precisely targeting and destroying diseased tissue, the laser’s pulsating energy also limits excessive heat buildup that can also damage healthy tissue. The laser also limits bleeding by cauterizing the area as it passes through. As a result, there’s less tissue disruption and damage, less bleeding and no need for suturing afterward.
But is it as effective as the conventional procedure? A number of studies have indicated similar success rates as with conventional surgery. And, patients with laser treatment indicate less pain and discomfort afterward with quicker recovery times.
While this treatment is still new, recent findings are encouraging. Lasers may soon become the standard and with fewer complications for patients dealing with this aggressive and debilitating condition.
If you would like more information on treating gum disease including with lasers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Gum Disease with Lasers.”