A 21st Century Solution For Gum Problems

Photography By Patryk Gauza

Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, is a common problem. It is a condition in which the gums recede and are swollen, tender, and bleed easily when brushing the teeth. It is usually the result of less than optimal oral hygiene and left untreated can lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease involves more than the gums. Besides affecting the bone and connective tissues that hold the teeth in place, it can also lead to systemic illnesses such as heart and kidney disease.  Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.


Traditional treatments for gingival disease usually begin with the non-surgical method of deep cleaning of the teeth and roots of the teeth, which may have become exposed due to receding gums. In this method, the surfaces of the teeth, both above and below the gum line, are scaled, removing tartar and smoothing the teeth. This helps inhibit future buildup of tartar and bacteria, and clears bacterial debris that can exacerbate inflammation.   


In more severe and advanced cases of periodontal disease, surgical intervention has been the preferred course of action. This is, of course, more invasive and carries with it the attendant downside of bleeding, pain, and a postoperative recovery period.


Patients now have an alternative choice that eliminates the drawbacks of traditional invasive surgery. Lasers can now be used as a viable alternative for most patients. It has many advantages over more conventional methods. Remarkably, the laser is capable of discerning between diseased and healthy tissue, thus sparing healthy tissue and leaving it unaffected.


The laser procedure is usually performed in the dentist's office with local anesthesia. The dentist will do a charting and take x-rays to assess the severity of disease prior to the procedure. To begin the procedure, an extremely thin laser fiber that is approximately the size of three human hairs is inserted between the gums and the teeth. Diseased tissue is then removed and live bacteria killed, while leaving healthy tissue of gums, teeth, and bone intact.


There are several advantages of the use of laser over older, more conventional methods. Traditional surgery can be very painful, as it involves cutting and suturing the gums. This requires postoperative pain relief and rest time during recovery. With laser treatment, there is little discomfort and pain medication is not usually required.

Conventional periodontal surgery requires that the gum be cut down, causing gum recession. This exposes the tooth roots, resulting in sensitivity to hot and cold and making it uncomfortable for the patient to eat or drink. Laser treatment does not cause any significant gum recession, sparing the patient that discomfort and maintaining the natural appearance of the patient's smile.


With the use of laser, long-term results are more predictable in terms of bone regeneration and attachment of tissues. Laser treatment has been shown to stimulate stem cells in the tissues, promoting regeneration of bone, connective tissue, and collagen, making it possible to save teeth that once would have been thought unsalvageable.