Laser Periodontal Therapy – A Gentler Way to Treat Gum Disease
By Dr. Anasinski
There are two main categories of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. The first category can usually be treated with improved oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings. The second category, however, is more serious, usually involves infection and has typically required periodontal surgery to restore the gums to health. Now, however, there is another choice—periodontal laser therapy.
As gum disease advances, tartar forms and the sulcus, which is a pocket or space between the tooth and gums, becomes packed with bacteria, plaque, tartar and food particles, eventually turning into an infection. If left untreated, this infection not only destroys gum tissue but can also destroy the supporting bone structure that holds the tooth thus leading to tooth loss along with other health issues. Traditionally these infections have been treated with periodontal surgery which involves cutting into the gum to clean out the infection and then suturing the gum back together after the procedure is completed. This process may be uncomfortable and can take two to four weeks to completely recover.
With Laser Periodontal Treatment (LPT), most periodontal surgeries to treat gum infections could be avoided because a small laser fiber (equivalent to the size of three hairs) is placed between the tooth and the gum where the infection exists, and during the process it is used to remove the infected tissue. Because there are no sharp instruments or cutting involved with laser therapy, healthy tissue is left unharmed and the root of the tooth is not exposed which reduces sensitivity. Therefore, the overall process is virtually painless requiring only a local anesthetic. While performing the procedure, I also use the laser to ‘disturb’ the healthy tissue enough that it begins the process of reattaching to the bone which is something that does not take place with traditional periodontal surgery. In the final stage of the laser treatment, I use the laser to create a seal over the gum tissue to protect it from getting re-infected.
Traditional gum surgery requires four dental visits with additional follow-ups for suture removal and checking the area where the surgery was performed, but LPT requires only two sessions. The time for recovery is also greatly reduced from the typical two to four weeks to only twenty-four hours, with the patient being able to drive a car, go back to work or engage in any type of activity without worry or concern immediately after the procedure. Not only is LPT non-invasive with a quicker recovery time, it is also less expensive than periodontal surgery and most dental insurance companies will cover the cost.
While there is no cure for moderate to severe periodontitis, LPT can be used to effectively treat it, allowing the patient to remain healthy and live comfortably with the disease. And LPT is safe for people with health problems such as diabetes, hemophilia and HIV or those on medications such as Cyclosporin or Coumadin.
Periodontal disease has been linked to a variety of systemic diseases throughout the body, including cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke; therefore it needs to be treated, and LPT is currently the gentlest, least invasive treatment available.