Periodontal or gum disease is an infection that causes bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth, and teeth that fall out. Gum disease is caused by plaque, a bacterial film that continuously forms around the teeth and gums. The main ways to treat gum disease are with deep dental cleaning under the gums, gum surgery, bone grafts, and antibiotics. In most cases, gum surgery is reserved for those patients with moderate to advanced gum disease.
Moderate and advanced periodontal disease is usually first treated with deep cleaning under the gums. After the gums heal, the surgical procedure is scheduled, partly because the dentist cannot effectively remove all of the plaque that remains deep under the gum-line. To perform the procedure, the dentist first numbs the mouth in the area that requires treatment. The gum is then gently separated from the bone, and the remaining plaque and tartar are removed, along with areas of diseased gum.
In many cases, gum disease leaves the bone choppy and irregular, which requires it to be smoothened and shaped. The gum is then stitched up, and bubble gum like packing is placed over the area. Gum surgery is usually not painful. Believe it or not, I have actually had patients sleep through the procedure. There will be varying degrees of discomfort, however, after the anesthesia wears off. The dentist will usually prescribe narcotic pain medication(s) and sometimes an antibiotic as well. Discomfort generally persists for a few days. The patient then returns in about one week to have the packing and stitches removed.
The problem is that some patients may experience sensitivity to cold foods and beverages for several weeks or longer after the treatment is completed. This discomfort occurs because the roots of the teeth are exposed during the healing process. A substance called cementum, which does a relatively poor job of insulating the tooth, covers the roots. To relieve this discomfort, your dentist can prescribe potent fluoride gels and also use in-office desensitizers. I often use a product called Gluma® or Pain-Free® to reduce cold sensitivity associated with gum surgery.
Gum surgery is an important step in the treatment of moderate to advanced gum disease. Fortunately, your dentist has many options available to help treat any discomfort associated with this procedure.
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