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The best news about the new laser technology is that, unlike traditional "flap" surgery, laser gum surgery promotes regeneration of diseased gum and root surfaces.The patient experiences no gum recession and no side effects than from scalpel surgery.
There is also a much lower chance of gum disease returning after laser gum surgery, since there is regrowth of the connective tissue. Other benefits include a nearly pain-free experience, very little recovery time, if any, and no higher cost than traditional scalpel gum surgery.
The process for laser gum surgery uses an FDA approved laser and is called LANAP, which stands for "laser-assisted new attachment procedure." The pulsing laser can tell the difference between diseased gum tissue, which is darker in color, and healthy tissue, and thus it only destroys the infected areas.
The new attachment refers to the actions performed by the periodontist after removing the diseased tissue, when the laser is used to agitate the remaining tissue just enough so that it is stimulated to reattach to the bone. The heat of the laser then seals the gums with a "thermal blood clot, creating a physical barrier to any bacteria or tissue that could re-create gum pockets," according to Sam Low, vice-president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
While laser therapy hasn't been demonstrated to be superior to scalpel surgery, according to the Journal of Periodontology, the decreased pain and recovery time, as well as the potential for regeneration, suggest that there are some important advantages of the newer technology over the old.
After an initial exam and x-rays, the periodontist will schedule two appointments within a week of each other, and then proceed to treat one half of the mouth at a time.
Each session takes about two hours and includes the use of Novacaine or a similar local anesthetic. After the area is numb, the periodontist will use the laser to seek out and destroy all the diseased gum tissue. It is then removed through a combination of water, suction and laser. Next, the doctor will use the laser to stimulate the regrowth and reaattachment of the gum tissue to the bone. The patient's bite is also adjusted to prevent unwanted grinding, and patients are usually given a bite guard to wear.
There is minimal recovery time after the laser gum surgery. The patient can drive themselves home and even return to work the same day. It is a good idea to take it easy for the first 24 hours, and antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications are taken to prevent infection and reduce swelling.
Crucial to the healing and regeneration at this point are the instructions to refrain from brushing teeth for about a week after the procedure. Gentle rinsing and rubbing the tooth lightly with a cotton swab is the most agitation allowed inside the mouth. A liquid and soft food diet is also required for a week, to prevent any disturbance of the new blood clots which have formed during the procedure. Soon, these will heal into healthy, sealed gum tissue, preventing further infection and disease.