What is Laser Gum Surgery?

T. Broderick

Laser gum surgery is a recently developed treatment for gum disease that removes diseased gum tissue through the use of laser light. The procedure does not require the use of a scalpel, and the length of time required depends on the amount of diseased tissue. Though many patients report little to no discomfort, many dentists who perform laser gum surgery offer their patients a local anesthetic. To ensure successful healing, a patient will need to strictly follow the directions of his or her dentist upon returning home.

A woman with healthy gums.
A woman with healthy gums.

Laser gum surgery was developed in California in the 1990s and became an approved medical procedure in the United States in 2004. Known in the medical community as the laser-assisted new attachment procedure (LANAP), a dentist or periodontist must become certified in the technique before offering it in his or her medical practice. The procedure provides patients with gum disease a new treatment route without the fear of pain. This prospect gives hope to many medical professionals; if more people receive treatment for gum disease, their chances of heart attack and stroke will fall due to the established link between these two conditions and gum disease.

Antibacterial mouthwash is typically prescribed following laser gum surgery.
Antibacterial mouthwash is typically prescribed following laser gum surgery.

The procedure for laser gum surgery is rather straightforward. After administering a local anesthetic, a dentist places a fiber optic strand between the tooth and gum. Pulses of laser light kill bacteria and sterilize the site. A second probe removes plaque buildup on the tooth through the use of high frequency vibrations. Finally, the dentist makes a final pass with the fiber optic strand, causing the creation of a blood clot. The blood clot will promote reattachment of the gum and tooth during the healing process.

After the procedure, the dentist gives the patient a specific set of instructions for self care. The patient is only allowed to eat certain foods and has to follow certain oral hygiene instructions. For example, a patient uses an over-the-counter anti-bacterial mouthwash a certain number of times each day. Follow-up visits to check for complications usually occur one week, one month and three months after the procedure. The level of success can only be determined after a healing period between nine and 12 months.

A downside of laser gum surgery is that its cost is significantly higher than traditional gum surgery. For this reason many insurance plans only partially cover the procedure. No matter the financial situation one faces, though, it is always wise to consult with a dentist before deciding on the best type of gum surgery. Though laser gum surgery has helped many, it may not be the best course of action for everyone.

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These lasers were created by dentists, receiving extensive clinical trials before receiving Federal Drug Administration approval. This technology is set to reinvent periodontal surgery as we know it.

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