Treatment Options for Periodontal (Gum) Disease - Dr. Colin Richman

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Treatment Options for Periodontal (Gum) Disease

April 17, 2012

When most people hear they need to see a periodontist, they are apprehensive (to say the least). Thankfully, new treatments have evolved that are much kinder and gentler.

The word “periodontal” means “around the tooth”. Periodontists treat diseases which affect the gums and bone which support and protect the teeth. The most common forms of periodontal disease are gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and periodontitis (inflammation of the gums plus deterioration of the supporting bone).

Treatment for Gingivitis

Gingivitis is inflammation in the gums. The most common symptom of gingivitis is bleeding during brushing or flossing. Gums may also appear red or swollen, and may be tender to the touch.

Gingivitis is your body’s first response to the irritating plaque bacteria that collect on your teeth. Excellent tooth brushing and flossing are important, but make sure you see your dentist in case your teeth need to be professionally cleaned, and to be sure there is not a more serious problem.

Treatment for Periodontitis – Traditional vs. Laser-assisted

More advanced gum disease requires more aggressive treatment. If your dentist detects an extensive infection, he or she might refer you to a periodontist for a specialized assessment.

As gum disease progresses, the gums can loosen around the neck of the tooth, and a gap or “pocket” opens up. Now bacteria can collect under the gums where you can no longer reach it with your tooth brush. More importantly, the surrounding bone which holds the tooth in begins to dissolve away.

One of the essential components of an evaluation is for the dentist to measure how deep these pockets are. If your dentist has told you that you have “a few 5’s”, that means that the probe goes down 5mm under the gums. If the gums are healthy, the probe should only go 3mm or less. At 5mm or more, you can no longer effectively clean the teeth with regular brushing and flossing, and treatment by the dentist is needed.

Traditional Treatment

Since the 1950’s, gum disease has generally been treated in 2 stages. First, a deep cleaning or root planing (literally smoothing the roots) is done to remove hard (calculus or tartar) and soft (plaque) bacterial deposits from below the gum line. The second stage of treatment involves gaining surgical access to the roots of the teeth for meticulous cleaning, and to either smooth down the bone where it has begun to deteriorate or to use grafting materials to help build the bone back. An enormous amount of research has been done on these techniques, and they are very successful, but multiple treatments are needed, and some recovery time is necessary.

Laser Treatment

We are very excited to be introducing an alternative to gum surgery, using a specialized dental laser to remove the diseased tissues which line the pockets, and to sterilize the pockets. This allows the tissues to heal naturally without the use of any grafting materials. The treatment is completed in 2 visits, with minimal discomfort and few side effects. As an extra benefit, healing occurs with little or no gum recession, yielding a wonderfully esthetic result.

The protocol we use, Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure or LANAP® has been shown to result in the formation of a strong attachment between the gum tissue and the tooth, ultimately shrinking the pockets. There has been extensive research on the safety of this procedure, and early studies indicate that pockets are dramatically reduced in over 85% of cases, and that oftentimes, new bone will form as well, actually reversing the damage and stabilizing the teeth.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease or if you have been told you have “pockets”, you need gum surgery, or you may lose your teeth from gum disease, contact the periodontics and implant dentistry practice of Dr. Colin Richman, serving Roswell, Alpharetta and the surrounding areas, for your professional consultation.

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