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How Laser Periodontal Therapy Treats Gum Disease

Perhaps you've recently gone for a dental checkup and received the news that you have periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. While no one wants to discover they have this condition, there is a wide range of treatment options depending on how severe your gum disease is. For example, laser periodontal therapy is a less invasive option than surgery, and it's gaining popularity.

You're probably familiar with the idea that lasers have revolutionized many industries. But were you aware that they've even expanded into dental care? While this is an exciting breakthrough, more scientific studies should be done for this periodontal disease treatment option. We recommend speaking with your dental professional about what your unique treatment plan should look like. Let's go over what periodontal disease is, how laser therapy works, and its known risks and benefits.

Understanding Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums, connective tissues and bone that hold your teeth in place. In the early stages, when it only affects the gum tissue (gingiva), periodontal disease is known as gingivitis. If treated at this early stage, gum disease can be reversed with a rigorous oral care routine. However, gingivitis can progress to an advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis, which requires professional intervention. According to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA), gum disease is the most common dental problem and will affect seven in ten Canadians at some point in their lives. The risk factors for periodontal disease include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes
  • Certain medications
  • Genetic susceptibility

Scaling and root planing is the standard treatment for advanced periodontal disease. This non-surgical deep cleaning removes tartar, plaque (biofilm), and bacteria from the tooth at and below the gumline and its roots. It may promote regeneration of healthy gum tissue, allowing it to reattach to the surface of your tooth and grow snugly around it once again.

In more advanced cases, your periodontist may decide that the best treatment option is surgery. My Health Alberta explains that a common surgical option, known as gum flap surgery, may be used when gum disease is severe. It involves making a surgical incision in the gum tissue, before pulling it back to allow deep cleaning around the roots underneath. Your gum tissue is then stitched back into place to heal. Other surgical options for periodontal disease include bone grafts, soft tissue grafts, guided tissue regeneration, and the application of tissue-stimulating proteins.

How Laser Therapy Works

Laser therapy is not a standalone treatment but works in conjunction with traditional therapies. In periodontal laser therapy, your periodontist uses a laser to access and remove the inflamed gum tissue from around your tooth's root. They then remove the tartar and plaque built up below and around your gumline. Next, they use a different tool to smooth out any rough spots on your tooth above and below the gumline. Removing these rough spots reduces the risk of your teeth and gums attracting more bacteria and developing future infections.

After laser therapy, your mouth will need time to heal. During this healing process, your gums should be infection-free and be able to tighten back up around your tooth, like a snug-fitting turtleneck!

Note that not all dental professionals use laser therapy. Those who decide to treat patients with this therapy undergo training on using lasers. This ensures they understand how to use different laser wavelengths safely and with correct technique.

Risks and Benefits

There are several benefits to using lasers for clearing out diseased gum tissue. The four main advantages of using laser therapy to treat gum disease are as follows:

  • Recovery and healing times are shorter.
  • You won't need general anesthetic, as is sometimes required for other forms of dental surgery.
  • Lasers can target the diseased areas precisely and accurately.
  • There's less bleeding, pain, and swelling because periodontal laser therapy is less invasive than regular surgery.

Despite these benefits, some medical authorities don't yet support the use of this therapy. The effects of laser periodontal therapy are still being studied. The British Columbia College of Oral Health Professionals (BCCOH) states that additional research is needed to explore whether this treatment approach is more effective than traditional periodontal therapies. But it has shown promising results for eligible patients.

Costs and Insurance Coverage

The cost of laser gum treatment depends entirely on the extent of your needs and the severity of your periodontal infection. Your dental professional typically won't commit to a price until they've had the chance to examine you.

If you have dental insurance, determine whether your insurance carrier will reimburse you for your periodontal treatment and whether there are limits or restrictions placed on reimbursement according to the type of treatment. It's best to get confirmation from your insurance company before choosing this therapy, so any potential bills don't blindside you.

Post-Therapy Dental Care

Your recovery time and post-therapy dental care will depend on several factors, such as the wavelength used in your laser therapy treatment, the severity of your condition, and your medical status. After laser therapy, your post-op care will be unique to your healing process, and your dental professional will give you guidelines specific to you.

In general, you may experience the following symptoms directly after laser periodontal therapy:

  • A change in the colour of your gum tissue.
  • Light bleeding and swelling around the laser site.
  • Some soreness or tooth sensitivity.
  • An unpleasant taste from a prescribed mouthrinse.

We recommend that you eat soft but nutritious foods while in recovery. Staying away from extremely hot and spicy meals, as well as chewing gum, hard candies, cookies, chips, and other crunchy foods, will give your mouth the chance to heal without interference.

Maintaining an A+ oral hygiene routine after you undergo any periodontal therapy is also critical to avoiding a recurrence of the infection. Your dental professional will instruct you on how best to care for the site of your laser therapy treatment, as well as your entire mouth. But in general, brushing your teeth twice a day, cleaning between your gums once a day with floss, a water flosser, or another interdental cleaning tool, and regularly rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthrinse will be the fundamental pillars of your top-notch oral care routine.

Laser gum surgery may sound like the right option for you. It's incredible to see how far dental therapies have come, and having a less painful and less invasive option for treating gum disease is quite tempting. Seeking guidance from your trusted dental professional is the best course of action when making this decision. You should feel comfortable asking them about laser therapy, but know there are plenty of other options proven to be safe and effective.