If your periodontist tells you that you need periodontal surgery, feeling anxious is an understandable first reaction. However, learning what it involves and how it will improve your oral – and overall – health can help you feel better and more confident. In this blog post, we’ll cover the reasons your periodontist may recommend periodontal surgery, the types of periodontal surgery and what you can do to ensure the best long-term outcome.
Why Do I Need Periodontal Surgery?
Patients experiencing periodontal (gum) disease are typically referred by their dentist to a periodontist – a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants. This specialist will be the dental professional who makes the diagnosis, plans the course of treatment and performs the procedure.
Surgery is typically recommended to treat periodontal disease. This develops in different stages, with two primary stages: gingivitis and periodontitis, also known as advanced gum disease. The term periodontal disease is a broader way of referring to all forms of gum disease, including both gingivitis and periodontitis.
Periodontal disease as a whole is caused by an infection from buildup of bacteria that harms the gums and bones that support your teeth, which eventually causes swelling, inflammation and bleeding gums. At its worst, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and erosion of supporting bone structures. It has also been linked to other health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.
While gingivitis can often be treated non-surgically, periodontitis requires surgical intervention in order to prevent tooth loss, as well as restore bone and gum tissue. Our blog post – “What Is Periodontal Gum Disease?” – covers this topic in greater detail.
What kind of Periodontal Surgery Will I Need?
The type of surgery your periodontist recommends will be based on several factors, such as the stage of gum disease in your specific case, and the overall condition of your gums and bone. For this reason, the consultation stage is very important. During this time, your periodontist will tell you his/her reasons why surgery is recommended, and what kind of treatment is best for your particular situation. Take this opportunity to ask questions and feel comfortable that you have all the information you need before scheduling surgery.
There are five types of periodontal surgery:
- Flap surgery/pocket reduction surgery, to make scaling and root planing easier. In this procedure – which is the most common type of periodontal surgery – small cuts are made in your gum and a section of tissue is lifted back. Tartar and bacteria are removed from the tooth and under the gum line. The gums are sutured back so that the tissue fits firmly around the tooth. Once you heal, it will be easier for you to keep these areas clean.
- Soft tissue graft, to cover exposed roots and reduce gum recession. When gums recede, a graft can help restore some of the tissue you lost. A small piece of tissue from the roof of your mouth or a tissue bank is used to attach to the areas where tissue is sparse or missing.
- Bone grafting, to prevent tooth loss and encourage bone regrowth. The bone graft can be made from your own bone harvested from your body, donor bone or synthetic bone. This procedure helps prevent tooth loss and may help promote natural bone regrowth. Our blog post – “What You Need to Know About Bone Grafts” – covers this procedure in greater detail.
- Guided tissue regeneration, to prevent unwanted tissue from interfering with bone regrowth. This technique involves placing a small piece of mesh material between your bone and gum tissue to allow bone to regrow.
- Tissue-stimulating proteins, to stimulate healthy bone and tissue growth. This procedure involves applying a special gel to the diseased tooth root. This gel contains the same proteins found in developing tooth enamel and stimulates the growth of healthy bone and tissue.
What Can I Expect Before, During and After Periodontal Surgery?
As mentioned earlier, your periodontist will discuss the entire procedure with you before you schedule surgery. A couple of weeks before your procedure, you may need to stop taking certain medications, such as aspirin, pain relievers and blood thinners. You also should not smoke or drink alcohol for at least 24 hours before the procedure. Your periodontist may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection.
A combination of local anesthesia and IV sedation may be used during the procedure. The local anesthesia will numb the area – the same as when you get a filling – while sedation will put you in “twilight sleep.” Under this condition, you will be unaware of your surroundings and the procedure, but able to respond to simple commands. Because regaining complete wakefulness and control of your reflexes takes several hours after surgery, you will need to have someone drive you to and from the appointment.
Your periodontist will give you a sheet of post-surgery care instructions. Follow all instructions carefully to prevent complications and establish the basis for a successful long-term outcome.
To prevent future periodontal disease, follow good oral hygiene practices. Scheduling twice-yearly cleanings can prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar that leads to gingivitis.
The Take-Home Message for Optimum Oral Health
If you do need periodontal surgery, we hope it serves as a wake-up call to focus on your oral health. Making the changes necessary to prevent a recurrence will pay off in improved general health and an overall more positive attitude toward your well-being!
We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.
At NK Family Dental, it is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh, and our endodontist, Dr. Sabek.