Gums that cause pain or discomfort in any way can really put a damper on the daily activities you’d normally enjoy. Simply eating or drinking can become unbearable. But there’s good news! If you are suffering from any type of problems with your gums, dentists can help.
Oftentimes the solution can be found with a non-surgical option, such as scaling and root planing. But other times, patients may need to have gum surgery to find relief from their discomfort. Gum surgery comes in several different forms, and which type of gum surgery you could need will be based on the type and severity of the problem you’re encountering.
When gum surgery is performed?
The mildest form of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This begins with the build-up of bacterial plaque that hardens into calculus. Also known as tartar, calculus irritates the gums, causing them to become inflamed and easily bleed. With gingivitis, the symptoms are mild, and the teeth remain stable. Many people are unaware they have it.
Regular dental checkups are for more than looking for cavities and cleaning your teeth. Your hygienist and dentist look for signs of gum disease. When caught early, gingivitis can be treated before deteriorating into the more serious periodontitis.
With periodontitis, bacteria break down the normal, healthy bond between teeth and gums. This causes gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets of bacteria along the gum line. Treatment for gingivitis includes good home hygiene, including daily flossing and twice-daily brushing at a minimum.
Left untreated, the infection causes increased damage, including gum loss (recession) and destruction of bone surrounding the teeth.
Periodontitis will not go away on its own. Even a rigorous home hygiene regime won’t take care of it. When it has reached this stage, professional dental treatment is needed. Most often, this deep cleaning involves scaling, which removes tartar and plaque from below the gum line. It is then following by root planing, which is a smoothing of the tooth root to allow the gums to reattach.
After deep cleaning, you will be placed on a periodontal maintenance plan. Keeping up with your dental appointments allows your dentist to make sure your gums are reattaching. The goal is for your gums to become healthy, pink, and tight. If, however, this does not solve your issues, you may need gum surgery.
A gummy smile can be caused by excessive gum tissue covering more enamel surface of a tooth’s crown (upper portion) than normal. If that is the case, a procedure known as “crown lengthening” can be performed, in which gum tissue (and sometimes a small amount of bone tissue) is removed to expose more tooth surface.
Uneven Gum Line
If you have an uneven gum line where some teeth are covered by more tissue than others, it is often possible to recontour (reshape) the tissue for a very pleasing effect. This can be done conventionally with a surgical scalpel or with newer dental laser technology. The advantage of a laser is that it seals the tissue as it sculpts it, making the procedure more comfortable and requiring a shorter healing time.
Types Of Gum Surgery
gum surgery is a broad term. Any surgical procedure where dentist cuts directly into the gums falls into the “surgery” category. There is no one type of gum surgery that will correct every type of disease or infection. Because you’re unique and your needs are unique, dentist is careful to develop a gum surgery treatment plan that will effectively meet your needs and provide amazing, life-changing results. The types of gum surgery dentists can perform are:
LANAP (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure)
Laser gum surgery is used to rid patients of bacteria that have attached to the surface of the teeth and formed beneath the gums. This specialized laser has been specifically designed to only target the bacteria and diseased tissue; therefore, healthy tissues will be unaffected.
To maximize the benefits of LANAP gum surgery, dentist will use ultrasonic instruments to further clean the teeth, using specialized techniques to encourage tooth-supporting bone to be restored in the treatment areas.
After gum surgery with LANAP, patients should be careful to allow their gums time to fully heal. You will be provided with specific aftercare instructions, which will advise you on the things you should (or shouldn’t) do during your recovery.
Cosmetic Gum Surgeries
Sometimes patients aren’t happy with the appearance of their smile. If you feel your smile is too “gummy” or you don’t like the way your gums fit around your teeth, dentists can perform a crown gingivectomy or a gingivoplasty.
A gingivectomy is also known as a crown lengthening procedure. dentist will expose more of your tooth or teeth by removing excess gum tissue. A gingivoplasty is used to reshape the gums around the teeth, so they are more aesthetically pleasing. If you have gums that are misshapen, this procedure can help give you a smile you’re proud to show off.
Flap Procedure for Gum Disease
You may need surgery for severe gum disease (periodontitis) if it cannot be cured with antibiotics or root planing and scaling. A flap procedure cleans the roots of a tooth and repairs bone damage caused by gum disease. A gum specialist (periodontist) or an oral surgeon often performs the procedure.
Before the procedure, you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area where the doctor will work on your gums.
The doctor will pull back a section of your gums to clean the roots of your teeth and repair damaged bone, if needed. The gum flap will be sewn back into place and covered with gauze to stop the bleeding.
Bone may be:
- Smoothed and reshaped so that plaquehas fewer places to grow.
- Repaired (grafted) with bone from another part of the body or with man-made materials. The doctor may place a lining on the bone graft to help the bone grow back. The lining may need to be removed later.
Gum grafting procedure works to rebuild gum tissue around your teeth and make necessary activities like eating and drinking more comfortable. This treatment involves removing a small section of tissue from inside your mouth, or the roof of your mouth, and layering it over the damaged areas of gum. There are several types of gum grafts.
Connective Tissue Graft
The connective tissue graft is used when there is a large area of root exposure. The tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth and sutured onto the grafting site. The roof of the mouth offers a larger area from which to take donor tissue, especially important if larger areas require grafting.
If you have thin gum tissue, a gingival graft may be performed. There doesn’t need to be root or nerve exposure before your dentist can perform a gingival graft. A small piece of tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth and sutured to the thinning area of your gums. This can be performed to several thinning sites if needed. Over time, your gums will thicken and reduce the chance for exposed roots in the future.
This graft is used if your gums have receded, but are otherwise healthy. A flap of tissue is cut, but left attached at one end, and is then moved sideways to cover exposed roots. This is an ideal graft, as the blood vessels remain in place.
It can take anywhere from one to two weeks for your gum graft to properly heal. For the first two weeks after your procedure it’s recommended to avoid eating hard or hot foods that could aggravate the graft. Soft and cool foods, such as eggs, yogurt, cooked vegetables, and ice cream are recommended. You’ll also need to avoid brushing or flossing the area until it has healed. Using a mouthwash will help prevent any infections or plaque buildup that could cause issues with the graft. dentists may also recommend pain medication and request that you avoid exercise until you’ve healed. Gum grafts are the most effective way to reduce further recession and bone loss, and protect the tooth roots from decay.
The following are general suggestions to help speed recovery:
- After 24 hours, you can rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Change gauze pads before they become soaked with blood.
- Relax after surgery. Strenuous physical activity may increase bleeding.
- Do not lie flat. This may prolong bleeding. Prop up your head with pillows.
- Apply an ice or cold pack to the outside of your mouth to help relieve pain and swelling.
- Do not use sucking motions, such as when using a straw to drink.
- Do not smoke.
A few days after the procedure, your dentist will remove the stitches.
The roots of your teeth may become more sensitive. The contour or shape of your gums may change.
Gum surgery can introduce harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. Gum tissue is also at risk of infection. You may need to take antibiotics before and after surgery if you have a condition that puts you at high risk for a severe infection or if infections are particularly dangerous for you. You may need to take antibiotics if you:
- Have certain heart problems that make it dangerous for you to get a heart infection called endocarditis.
- Have an impaired immune system.
- Had recent major surgeries or have man-made body parts, such as an artificial hip or heart valve.