Gum (Periodontal) Disease
Controlling the Infection
The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on how far the disease has advanced. Any type of treatment requires the patient to keep up good daily care at home. The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking, as a way to improve treatment outcome.
Treatments may include deep cleaning, medications, surgery, and bone and tissue grafts.
Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Planing)
In deep cleaning, the dentist, periodontist, or dental hygienist removes the plaque through a method called scaling and root planing. Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease.
In some cases a laser may be used to remove plaque and tartar. This procedure can result in less bleeding, swelling, and discomfort compared to traditional deep cleaning methods.
Medications may be used with treatment that includes scaling and root planing, but they cannot always take the place of surgery. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, the dentist or periodontist may still suggest surgical treatment. Long-term studies are needed to find out if using medications reduces the need for surgery and whether they are effective over a long period of time.
Surgery might be necessary if inflammation and deep pockets remain following treatment with deep cleaning and medications. A dentist or periodontist may perform flap surgery to remove tartar deposits in deep pockets or to reduce the periodontal pocket and make it easier for the patient, dentist, and hygienist to keep the area clean. This common surgery involves lifting back the gums and removing the tartar. The gums are then sutured back in place so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth again. After surgery, the gums will shrink to fit more tightly around the tooth. This sometimes results in the teeth appearing longer.
Bone and Tissue Grafts
In addition to flap surgery, your periodontist or dentist may suggest procedures to help regenerate any bone or gum tissue lost to periodontitis.
- Bone grafting, in which natural or synthetic bone is placed in the area of bone loss, can help promote bone growth. A technique that can be used with bone grafting is called guided tissue regeneration. In this procedure, a small piece of mesh-like material is inserted between the bone and gum tissue. This keeps the gum tissue from growing into the area where the bone should be, allowing the bone and connective tissue to regrow.
- Growth factors – proteins that can help your body naturally regrow bone – may also be used. In cases where gum tissue has been lost, your dentist or periodontist may suggest a soft tissue graft, in which synthetic material or tissue taken from another area of your mouth is used to cover exposed tooth roots.
Since each case is different, it is not possible to predict with certainty which grafts will be successful over the long-term. Treatment results depend on many things, including how far the disease has progressed, how well the patient keeps up with oral care at home, and certain risk factors, such as smoking, which may lower the chances of success. Ask your periodontist what the level of success might be in your particular case.
Treatment results depend on many things, including how far the disease has progressed, how well the patient keeps up with home care, and certain risk factors, such as smoking, which may lower the chances of success. Ask your periodontist what the likelihood of success might be in your particular case.
Consider Getting a Second Opinion
When considering any extensive dental or medical treatment options, you should think about getting a second opinion. To find a dentist or periodontist for a second opinion, call your local dental society. They can provide you with names of practitioners in your area. Also, dental schools may sometimes be able to offer a second opinion. Call the dental school in your area to find out whether it offers this service.