Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues and bones that hold teeth in place. It’s a common condition for adults in their 30s and 40s. For the elderly, it’s an even bigger problem. Most types of gum disease are caused by poor oral hygiene habits, but some medications and chronic illnesses can also affect tooth and gum health. One of the newer treatments for periodontal disease is laser therapy. It works by using a high-powered, energy-dense beam of light to break down plaque and remove inflamed gum tissues from around the tooth and the roots beneath the gum line.
Laser Therapy Pros and Cons
First off, lasers are very safe. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, they’ve been used for treating dental problems for at least three decades. And most dental-health professionals agree that patients prefer laser procedures over treatments that require a drill.
Here are some other benefits of laser therapy for treating periodontal disease:
- Unlike other types of dental procedures, patients do not need a general anesthetic
- Also, laser therapy is less invasive than traditional treatment methods (no extensive cutting or need for sutures)
- Lasers are more precise than other dental hand tools
- Patients experience less bleeding, swelling and post-op pain
- It takes less time for patients to heal and recover
- Lases can stimulate gums and cause cells to regenerate
How Does Laser Periodontal Therapy Work?
During laser periodontal therapy, the goal is to remove bacteria and damaged tissues. So your dentist will aim a high-energy light beam at your teeth and gums. The laser is strong enough to kill bacteria beneath the gum line and also break down sticky plaque on the surface of your tooth’s roots. Then, with a different instrument, your dentist removes the plaque.
Lasers can also reach very deep pockets in the tooth’s enamel and the energy-dense light kills harmful bacteria that’s responsible for causing inflammation in the gums and beneath the gum line. The best part is that laser therapy takes less time than traditional treatments (like pinhole incision surgery or root and planing). Healing time is also faster and there’s less pain and inflammation following most laser procedures. Finally, unlike traditional periodontal treatments, patients tend to experience very minimal loss of healthy gum tissue.
Signs of Gum Disease
Gingivitis, the earliest stage of periodontal disease, is reversible. Your gums may be red, swollen and irritated. Periodontitis is more advanced gum disease. It’s when the gums can pull away from the teeth, you can experience jawbone loss, have one or more loose teeth or even lose teeth. If you don’t get treatment for advanced stages of periodontal disease, you’re at risk of losing one or more teeth.
It’s best to identify and address dental problems as early as possible. If you suspect you might have periodontal disease, be sure to make an appointment with your dentist.
Here are some telltale signs of moderate or serious gum disease:
- Red or swollen gums
- Pain in the gums or teeth, especially when you chew
- Gums that are sensitive to hot or very cold food or beverages
- Bleeding and/or irritated gums
- Loose teeth or you lost one or more teeth
- Receding gum line (the affected teeth can look longer than normal)
- Persistent bad breath
At your appointment, your dentist or dental hygienist will examine and probe your teeth and gums. They’re looking for irritation, inflammation, and pockets around the teeth where bacteria can accumulate and multiply. Your dentist may take an x-ray to see if you have any bone loss.
What causes periodontal disease?
The biggest indicator of gum disease is bad oral hygiene habits. That’s because infrequent brushing and flossing invites bacteria to invade the bone and tissues in your mouth. It also permits plaque to build up on the tooth’s enamel and roots hidden under the gums. Brushing your teeth helps prevent plaque and bacteria from accumulating under your gum line, but it’s just as important to see your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and examination.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria. You can, however, prevent plaque from accumulating. And it’s much easier to remove the bacteria-containing film before it hardens on your enamel. Dental plaque is damaging to teeth because it causes decay and can lead to tooth loss.
Facts about periodontal disease
- Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have periodontitis
- Starting at 30 years old, your chances of having some form of periodontal disease is more than 44%
- Of adults under age 30 who have periodontitis, nearly 8% have severe gum disease
- Your chances of having periodontal disease at 65 years or older is more than 70%