Periodontal or gum disease is a serious infection that damages the bone and ligaments that support your teeth. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports gum disease is leading cause of tooth loss in adults; but, it doesn't have to be! In its early stages, periodontal disease is reversible with nonsurgical treatments. If left to progress to the point where significant bone is lost, your dentist may recommend osseous surgery to save your tooth.
How Periodontal Disease Advances
When bacterial plaque builds up and is allowed to remain on your teeth, acidic toxins soon begin to irritate your gum tissue, triggering inflammation. The first noticeable signs of a problem are red, puffy gums that bleed easily. However, a more thorough brushing and flossing routine usually takes care of the inflammation, as can a professional cleaning by your dentist or dental hygienist.
If this early phase of gum disease (aka gingivitis) isn't reversed, plaque buildup around and under your gums begins to harden into tartar. Tartar accumulation eventually causes your gums to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets where more food and bacteria can collect. When caught early enough, your dentist may recommend a nonsurgical procedure called scaling and root planing. This deep cleaning removes the tartar from under your gums and smooths the root surfaces, and may be all you need to stop the active disease process. However, if your pockets are too deep or too much bone has been lost, an osseous procedure is a treatment that may keep you from losing your tooth.
What Is Osseous Surgery?
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Dentistry, osseous surgery involves the removal or recontouring of damaged bone around the tooth. The goal of this surgery, says the American Academy of Periodontology, is to eliminate bacteria, reduce pockets and smooth the damaged bone so that the gum tissue can reattach to strong bone.
This type of periodontal surgery is performed under local anesthesia. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that the dentist or periodontist makes a small incision in the gum tissue so that it can be flapped back to expose the surrounding bone and root of the tooth. He or she will scrape deposits off the root surface and trim and recontour any jagged bone. The tissue will be sutured back so that there will be minimal pocket depth when healed. Depending on the severity of the bone loss, the periodontist may also perform a bone graft or guided tissue regeneration before reattaching the gum tissue. Length of time for the surgery will vary depending on the procedure and how many teeth are involved, but your dentist should be able to give you an estimate of how long you will be in the dental chair.
What to Expect After Surgery
Immediately following the surgery, your dentist will cover the area with gauze to absorb any bleeding. The office staff will give you post-operative instructions, which will include rinsing your mouth with warm salt water and applying ice packs to reduce any swelling. You will need to change the gauze pads as long as there is bleeding, and any discomfort can be handled with over-the-counter medications. Every surgery is different, but you should be back in action and eating normally within a day or two, and your dentist will want to check on healing in about a week. After periodontal treatment, you will most likely be on a more frequent preventative-maintenance schedule for cleanings and checkups. Besides helping you implement a stringent home care regimen to prevent any need for osseous surgery, your dentist may recommend you swish with a mouthwash that kills 99 percent of germs on contact, like Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield mouthwash.
Attacking periodontal disease in its earliest stages is always the best bet for a good outcome. But know that even in more advanced phases, osseous surgery may be the treatment that helps you keep your teeth.