Treating Gum Disease (Gingivitis) – What is periodontal surgery?

Periodontal surgery is sometimes needed to treat certain gum diseases and conditions such as gingivitis and periodontitis.  This type of surgery is commonly known as gum surgery.

Gingivitis is a condition that can cause damage to bones and tissues, tooth loss, jaw bone damage, gum gaps between teeth and a variety of other concerns. Gingivitis is serious and should be treated promptly.  It can lead to a more serious gum disease called periodontitis which can cause tooth loss.

What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is a mild and non-destructive form of gum disease that can cause gum redness, swelling, and bleeding. Most often, gingivitis occurs due to poor oral hygiene, plaque and tartar buildup. When gingivitis is caught early, professional treatment can reverse the condition.

The most common cause of gingivitis is the accumulation of bacterial plaque between and around the teeth. The plaque triggers an immune response, which can eventually lead to the destruction of gum tissue. Dental plaque is a film that collects naturally on teeth. It is formed by bacteria that adhere to the tooth’s surface. When plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar at the base of the teeth near the gums. Plaque and tartar irritate the gums, causing inflammation.

What is periodontitis?
Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease. This occurs when gingivitis has advanced, leading to an inflammatory response that destroys bone and tissues. Periodontitis causes the gums to separate from the teeth, causing spaces and pockets to develop which trap bacteria and lead to infection. As a result, tooth loss and bone loss can occur.

What causes these conditions?
Poor oral hygiene isn’t the only thing that can cause gingivitis or periodontitis.  Changes in hormones due to pregnancy, puberty, menopause and other events may lead to more sensitive gums that are prone to inflammation.  Some diseases such as cancer, diabetes and HIV also place you at higher risk for developing gingivitis. Oral health can also be affected by some prescription medications.  And regular smokers more commonly develop gingivitis and other oral health concerns, too. Poor diet, advanced age and family history can also contribute to the risk for developing these oral conditions.

What is periodontal surgery?
There are several types of gum surgery available to treat different oral health concerns.  The type of surgery needed is determined by your dental surgeon, depending on your type and severity of gum disease. Before surgery, some dental surgeons perform a deep clean of the teeth, roots and gums. Deep cleaning procedures such as root planning or deep scaling of the teeth to remove tartar and bacteria and smooth the surfaces of the teeth or roots.

Flap surgery: This is helpful for people who have tartar buildup in deep pockets in the gums.  The gums are lifted off the teeth to allow for deep cleaning. Stitches re-fit the gums in place.  Bone reshaping may be needed in some cases.

Bone grafting: When the bone surrounding a tooth is compromised or destroyed, some patients need a bone graft.  Patient bone, donor bone or manufactured bone can be used.  Bone grafting holds the tooth in place and allows it to re-grow.

Guided tissue regeneration: In this procedure, mesh material is placed between the patient’s bone and gum tissue, preventing the gum from growing where bone should be, and allowing bone and accompanying connective tissue to form.

Tissue grafting: Gum recession is a loss of gum tissue that may require tissue grafting.  During this procedure, an oral surgeon grafts tissue – often from the patient’s mouth roof – to the area where the gum has receded. This protects the area, reduces risk for further damage and covers exposed roots.

Most periodontal surgery procedures take about two hours to complete. Many procedures require complete or partial sedation, and a few require only a local anesthetic. Following the surgery, patients will receive complete instructions for care and recovery. 

Your oral surgeon can work with you to ensure a pain-free and anxiety-free treatment experience. A variety of medications, processes and technologies are available that will help you remain calm in the office, and that will ensure you experience minimal pain or discomfort before, during or after the procedure.

Gingivitis and periodontitis can often be prevented with good oral hygiene and regular dental visits, but if you find yourself needing treatment for these conditions, don’t let anxiety stand in your way. There are tools and techniques available to ensure that taking care of your oral health is as painless as possible.  Ask your dentist or oral surgery about DentalVibe, a tool that completely eliminates the pain of dental injections. If your oral health care provider doesn’t use DentalVibe, you can tell him more about it, or you can search for a DentalVibe dentist or oral surgeon here. Take charge of your oral health.  Don’t let problems become bigger problems.  Conquer dental concerns by partnering with a dentist that can help you manage your oral health and dental anxiety to ensure that you have a beautiful smile for years to come.

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