Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular visits to the dentist, will help keep your teeth healthy and strong. But good oral hygiene isn’t just for your teeth—it also keeps your gums healthy. Regular oral exams give your dentist the chance to detect gum disease in its early stages and treat it before it progresses.
When you skip your dental visits for too long, untreated gum disease can leave you with infected and damaged gums that require surgery. If your dentist has referred you to a gum specialist for gum surgery, here’s what you need to know:
Reasons for Gum Surgery
Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease, can usually be treated by a dentist. Periodontitis is an advanced form of gingivitis that leads to inflammation and damaged bone and tissue. Periodontitis usually requires a visit to a gum doctor, known as a periodontist, and treatment may involve gum surgery. Periodontal surgery can regrow damaged bones and tissues, prevent tooth loss, reduce gum gaps between the teeth, and reshape the jawbone to eliminate bacterial growth.
However, gum disease is not the only reason for gum surgery. Some patients opt for cosmetic gum surgery, such as when their gums cover too much of their teeth, a condition known as a “gummy smile.”
Types of Gum Surgery
The type of gum surgery you need depends on the severity of your gum disease and the specific damage it has done, or the type of cosmetic results you desire. Types of gum surgery include:
1. Gingival Flap Surgery
Gums are separated from the teeth for a deep cleaning, then stitched back into place around the teeth. Bone reshaping is sometimes required during the surgery.
Excess and overgrown gum tissue is removed to improve aesthetics and to make it easier to keep the surface of the teeth clean.
Healthy gum tissue is reshaped for a more appealing aesthetic, sometimes in combination with a gum graft.
4. Gum Graft
Tissue is taken from the roof of the mouth and stitched into place on either side of a tooth that is exposed due to gums that are receding. This helps even the gum line and reduce sensitivity.
5. Gum Regeneration
Gum tissue is folded back and bacteria is removed. The surgeon inserts bone grafts, membranes, or tissue-stimulating proteins to help the gum tissues regenerate around the teeth.
What to Expect During Gum Surgery
Before most types of gum surgery begin, the periodontist will thoroughly clean your teeth and apply a local anesthetic to numb the area. In some cases, a general anesthetic may also be needed. If you require a deep clean beneath the surface of the gums, the periodontist will make small incisions along the gum line, and lift the gums away from the teeth to clean even deeper and remove any tartar, plaque, or infected tissue.
Finally, the periodontist will perform the specific procedure you need, then stitch your gums back in place. Your periodontist will be able to give you more information on the particulars of your procedure, how to prepare for it and how long it will take.
What to Expect During Recovery
Recovery times for periodontal surgery will depend on the type of procedure, but most periodontists will schedule a follow-up within 1 to 2 weeks. During the recovery period, you will need to use an antiseptic mouthwash to keep your mouth clean and avoid infection. Your surgeon might also prescribe a round of antibiotics.
For the first few days after surgery, you may be instructed to eat soft foods and avoid strenuous exercise. You should also avoid smoking during the entire recovery process.
Potential Pain and Discomfort
If your dentist has referred you to a periodontist for surgery, you’re probably wondering, “is gum surgery painful?” The answer depends on each person and procedure, but in general there is little to no pain during the actual surgery due to the anesthetics used.
After the surgery, most people only have mild to moderate pain that can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers. Moderate swelling might occur. Your periodontist will give you more specific information about how to manage any pain and swelling you might have.
Alternatives to Gum Surgery
For certain gum conditions, you might be a candidate for alternative treatments that don’t require gum surgery. For receding gums, the “pinhole” technique for gum grafting uses a special instrument to release the gum tissue and move it to its proper position on the teeth. Once the gums are in place, collagen strips are used to stabilize the gum position and encourage the readaptation of the gum tissue to the teeth at a new level.
Another non-surgical gum treatment is the Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP), which treats the pockets between the gum and teeth that can collect gum disease-causing bacteria. LANAP uses a laser to eliminate bacteria in the pockets and remove diseased tissue to help the collagen fibers of the gums reattach to the tooth, recreating the lost seal.
Restore Your Healthy Smile at San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry
At San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry, we’re committed to providing the best service in a professional and compassionate environment. We’ll also work with your dentist to coordinate and optimize your treatment to help you achieve and maintain the best possible oral health. For more information about gum surgery procedures or to set up a consultation to determine whether you’re a candidate for non-surgical gum treatments, fill out our contact form or give us a call at (619) 543-0905.