Periodontitis is a severe form of gum disease that damages the tissues that support your teeth, such as your ligaments and bones, in addition to your gums. If your dentist has diagnosed you with this condition, you will need to start treatment right away. One treatment that your dentist may recommend is periodontal flap surgery. Here are four things you need to know about it.
Why is this surgery performed?
Healthy gums are supposed to fit tightly against the teeth. This keeps bacteria and food particles from getting trapped beneath your gum tissue. In people with periodontitis, the tissues beneath the teeth are destroyed, and this allows the gums to pull away from the teeth. This leads to the formation of what dentists call "pockets".
Pockets are very hard to keep clean, and they allow bacteria to thrive. As the bacteria accumulate within the pocket between your gums and your teeth, they push deeper into the tissue and enlarge the pockets. If these pockets are allowed to continue expanding, you'll eventually lose your teeth. The goal of periodontal flap surgery is to reduce the size of your pockets and to therefore save your teeth.
How is periodontal flap surgery performed?
Periodontal flap surgery is a fairly simple procedure. Your dentist will use a scalpel to make incisions in your gums and to fold them away from your teeth. The reason this is done is to expose the tooth and root and make the pocket easier to clean. Once the tooth and root are exposed, your dentist will scrape plaque and tartar from the area. The dentist may also rinse the area with an antiseptic to help kill the bacteria that were living in the pocket.
Once the area is clean, your dentist will put your gums back in place and will then sew them tightly against your teeth. This gets rid of the pocket and makes it easier for you to keep your mouth clean.
Is periodontal flap surgery painful?
You won't feel any pain during the procedure because your dentist will numb the area with injections of local anesthesia. This will make your gums numb, but you'll still be awake and alert. If you're really anxious about the surgery, ask your dentist if you can be sedated. Sedation helps you relax, though you'll still be awake.
The recovery period is painful, but you can manage the pain with over-the-counter painkillers or with a prescription painkiller if necessary. The gum tissue that was operated on will be protected with a hard periodontal dressing; this dressing will remain in place for one to two weeks. You'll need to chew your food on the opposite side of your mouth to avoid dislodging the dressing and causing further pain.
Will other treatments be required?
Sometimes, other treatments are necessary in addition to flap surgery. If your periodontitis is severe, and the tissues have been destroyed, you may need to have surgery to replace them. If some of your gum tissue has been destroyed by periodontitis, your dentist may need to perform gum grafts to repair the damage. To do this, tissue from the roof of your mouth will be sewn onto the affected area to replace your missing gum tissue.
If your jawbone has been damaged by periodontitis, your dentist may need to perform bone grafts. The bone tissue is taken from other parts of your body, like your hip, and surgically attached to the weakened area of your jawbone. Your dentist will let you know if you need these procedures after he or she examines your mouth.
Periodontitis is a serious condition that can lead to tooth loss, so if your dentist has diagnosed you with it, you need to start treatment immediately. For more info, talk to a dental professional.