Bright Ideas in the Fight Against Gum Disease

January 8, 2014

There’s nothing sexy about gum disease. It can cause chronic bad breath, result in permanent tooth loss and, as current research suggests, lead to an increased risk of other systemic diseases, like arthritis, diabetes, and some cardiovascular diseases. Conventional treatments for gum disease, like surgery and antibiotic therapy, have serious drawbacks but advances in dental technology have yielded a new treatment option: lasers. Lake Orion, MI dentist, Dr. Brad Greenfield, discusses how laser gum therapy is changing the game and helping Americans enjoy better oral health.

A Brief Look of Gum Disease

Gum disease affects approximately half of all Americans, report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of those affected have moderate periodontitis, while the remaining cases are nearly evenly divided between mild gum disease (also known as gingivitis) and severe periodontitis. The most common risk factors for gum disease include smoking, poor oral hygiene, diabetes, hormone fluctuation, and heredity. Caused by an overabundance of oral bacteria, gum disease develops in a consistent pattern:

  1. Bacterial colonies create a biofilm known as plaque that sticks to enamel, especially at the gum line. Allowed to remain intact, the plaque hardens into tartar.
  2. The bacteria feed on sugar molecules present in the oral cavity and excrete an acidic byproduct that irritates the gum tissue, leading to inflamed, bleeding gums (gingivitis).
  3. The gums begin to pull away from the surface of the tooth as more bacteria infect the interceding spaces.
  4. As the infection releases toxins into the bloodstream, the body’s immune system fights back, gradually destroying the bone and connective tissue that surrounds the tooth.

Earlier stages of gum disease can be controlled by changing certain lifestyle habits. For instance, people who smoke almost always experience an improvement in gum health after quitting. In addition, better, more consistent brushing and flossing will keep oral bacteria at bay and result in fresher breath and more vibrant gums. However, if gum disease progresses to a moderate or severe stage, professional gum therapy is the only viable option.

How Laser Therapy Creates Healthier Gums?

According to Dr. Greenfield, soft tissue lasers can address gum disease in two ways. First, applying the laser at and below the gum line effectively destroys the bacteria responsible for gum disease inflammation. Second, lasers can safely remove infected gum tissue. Once the bacterial colonies have been eradicated, the gums can begin to reattach to the tooth’s surface. Dr. Greenfield notes that laser dentistry patients experience less bleeding, less post-operative discomfort, and significantly faster healing times that with traditional surgical gum treatments.

Laser Therapy vs. Antibiotic Therapy

Antibiotics, usually applied topically to the infected tissue, offer another non-surgical approach to gum disease treatment. While different therapeutic approaches work better for different patients, Dr. Greenfield points out two key advantages to laser therapy. First, some strains of oral bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, but no strain of bacteria is ever likely to develop an immunity to lasers. Second, antibiotics can suppress a patient’s immune system by killing off beneficial strains of bacteria, a problem that does not occur with soft tissue laser therapy.

About Brad Greenfield, DDS

Dr. Brad Greenfield practices family, restorative, cosmetic, and laser dentistry with a holistic approach to patient care and comfort. To schedule an appointment at our Lake Orion, MI dentist office, call (248) 693-6213. We proudly serve patients of all ages in Clarkston, Auburn Hills, Oxford, Rochester Hills, and neighboring communities.

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