3 Surgical Treatments for Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a serious form of gum disease. It leads to red, swollen, bleeding gums, but your gums aren't the only tissue affected by periodontitis; the ligaments and bones underneath your teeth can also be damaged. This serious disease can lead to complications like tooth loss, so if your dentist diagnoses you with periodontitis, treatment will start right away. Here are three surgical procedures that your dentist may recommend.

Pocket reduction surgery

Periodontitis is caused by the buildup of bacteria-filled tartar on your teeth and below your gum line, so to treat it, your dentist will need to remove the tartar. The tartar on your teeth can be scraped away with metal tools known as scalers, but the tartar that is trapped between your gums and your tooth roots is harder to access. To clean this area of your teeth, your dentist may need to perform a surgery known as pocket reduction surgery.

During this procedure, your dentist will make incisions in your gum tissue to access the roots of your teeth. Once the roots are exposed, the tartar will be scraped off of them. After this is done, your dentist may apply an antimicrobial liquid to your roots to kill bacteria. The final step in the process is for your dentist to sew your gum tissue back in place.

After this surgery, you can expect some gum sensitivity, but it will be worth it because this procedure will improve the condition of your gums.

Gum grafts

If you have gum recession due to periodontitis, your dentist may recommend gum graft surgery. Gum recession means that your gum tissue has pulled away from your teeth and exposed the roots of your teeth. During gum graft surgery, this tissue will be replaced so that your roots will once again be protected by gum tissue.

To perform a gum graft, your dentist will need replacement tissue. This will come either from the roof of your mouth or from a tissue bank; where the tissue comes from is something that you can decide with your dentist. Your dentist will position the replacement tissue on top of your exposed tooth roots and then sew it into place.

The recovery from gum graft surgery is painful. If the grafted tissue was harvested from your mouth, the roof of your mouth will hurt; patients describe this as feeling like a serious burn. Your gum tissue will also hurt, but you should feel better within a week or two.

Bone grafts

Periodontitis can spread to the bones beneath your teeth, and when this happens, you may lose bone tissue. Lost bone tissue is a serious problem because without an adequate support system, your teeth may fall out. Your jawbone can also become weak and easily fractured. If you have lost bone tissue, your dentist may need to perform bone graft surgery to replace the missing tissue.

The replacement bone may be taken from other parts of your body, like your chin or your hip, but it can also come from cadavers or even from cows. Your dentist will make an incision in your gum tissue to access your jawbone. Once the bone is exposed, holes or weak spots in your bone will be filled or reinforced with the replacement bone. A barrier made of skin or a synthetic material will be placed over top to hold the bone in place while it heals together. Finally, your gum tissue will be sewn up.

The recovery from bone grafts can be painful, so you'll be given a prescription for a painkiller. You may not be able to brush your teeth while you're healing, and if this is the case, you'll have to use a prescription mouth rinse to keep your teeth clean. You'll go back to your dentist in about a week for a follow-up to make sure you're healing properly.

If you have been diagnosed with periodontitis, your dentist may recommend one or more of these surgeries to treat your condition.