Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
In addition to procedures to treat periodontal disease, many periodontists also perform cosmetic procedures to enhance your smile. Oftentimes, patients who pursue cosmetic procedures notice improved function as well. Cosmetic procedures include:
Soft Tissue Grafts
During this procedure, excess gum and bone tissue is reshaped to expose more of the natural tooth. This can be done to one tooth, to even your gum line, or to several teeth to expose a natural, broad smile. Your dentist or periodontist may also recommend crown lengthening to make a restorative or cosmetic dental procedure possible. Perhaps your tooth is decayed, broken below the gum line, or has insufficient tooth structure for a restoration, such as a crown or bridge. Crown lengthening adjusts the gum and bone level to expose more of the tooth so it can be restored.
Soft tissue grafts can be used to cover roots or develop gum tissue where absent due to excessive gingival recession. During this procedure, your periodontist takes gum tissue from your palate or another donor source to cover the exposed root. This can be done for one tooth or several teeth to even your gum line and reduce sensitivity.
If you're diagnosed with periodontal disease, your periodontist may recommend periodontal surgery. Periodontal surgery is necessary when your periodontist determines that the tissue around your teeth is unhealthy and cannot be repaired with non-surgical treatment. Following are the four types of surgical treatments most commonly prescribed:
- Pocket Reduction Procedures
- Regenerative Procedures
- Crown Lengthening
- Soft Tissue Grafts
The Use of Lasers in Periodontal Therapy
Limited research suggests that the use of lasers as an adjunct to scaling and root planing (SRP) may improve the effectiveness of this procedure. In addition, when the lasers are used properly during periodontal therapy there can be less bleeding, swelling and discomfort to the patient during surgery. However, each laser has different wavelengths and power levels that can be used safely during different periodontal procedures. Damage to periodontal tissues can result if an inappropriate wavelength and/or power level is used during a periodontal procedure.
If you've already lost a tooth to periodontal disease or other reasons, you may be interested in dental implants—the permanent tooth replacement option.
Tray Delivery Devices
Recently, questions have been raised in regards to a tray delivery device that is marketed for the treatment of gum disease. The Periodontal Academy has developed a fact sheet that aims to set forth some facts regarding this product.