Periodontal surgery may be recommended for people with severe gum disease. Also called periodontitis, severe gum disease may cause a person to experience deep, painful infections in their gum tissue. It can also lead to premature tooth loss and loss of jaw bone mass if it is left untreated. The goal of the surgery is to clean the gum tissue, promote the growth of healthy new tissue and restore the health of tooth roots and the jaw bones. Having this surgery makes it easier to maintain good oral hygiene, removes bacteria from the mouth and prevents worsening of gingivitis, tooth decay and bone loss in the jaws.

What Would Require This Surgery?

The early stage of gum disease is gingivitis. This is an inflammation of the gingiva around the teeth. If you have it, your gums may be red or swollen. They may bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. If left untreated, the disease advances. Additional symptoms include bad breath, gums that pull away from the teeth and the formation of deep pockets between teeth and around tooth roots. Severe gum disease, or periodontitis, includes symptoms such as pain when chewing and loosening of the teeth in their sockets. A person with severe or advanced gum disease that is not getting better with more conservative treatments such as deep cleaning would benefit from periodontal surgery.

How Extensive Is It?

Preparing for gum surgery starts a few weeks before the procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines, quit smoking and avoid alcohol. These could delay your body’s ability to heal itself. The extent of periodontal surgery depends on a lot of factors, such as how far the gums have receded and whether or not there is a loss of tissue in the jaw bones. There are several types of surgery for the gums. Flap surgery involves lifting up a flap of gum tissue and removing all the tartar and bacteria under it. The flap is stitched back into place in order to heal. Bone grafting may be needed if tissue has been lost from the jaws. The bone could come from your own body or from donor tissue. Soft tissue grafts, protein gels or a synthetic matrix can be stitched onto gum tissue in order to promote new tissue growth.

What Is the Usual Recovery Time?

Recovery time from gum surgery varies for each person. People who are otherwise healthy and who do not use tobacco or alcohol typically have faster healing times than people with underlying health problems. Flap surgery has the shortest healing time, with most people feeling better after a few weeks. Bone grafts have a longer healing time, and they typically take a few months to integrate into your own bone tissues. You can shorten your recovery time by following the dentist’s recommendations for brushing, flossing and rinsing your mouth. Eating a soft diet for a week or two also helps with healing. Try nutritious soft foods such as applesauce or chicken soup.