Laser away gum disease

March 31, 2010 9:41:24 AM PDT
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is primarily a result of bacteria that causes pockets of infection to form below the gum line.

According to Robert J. Yu, D.M.D., a periodontist at Tampa Bay Dental Implants & Periodontics in Saint Petersburg, Fla., it can also be a result of secondary factors like bad dental hygiene, smoking, genetics, alcohol and diabetes. Patients with gum disease are not alone. "The studies show that anywhere between 70 and 80 percent of the general population will have some form of periodontal disease," Dr. Yu told Ivanhoe. However, he says he believes those statistics may be slightly higher than the actual number of individuals with the condition.

Gum disease is referred to as a "silent disease" because it often presents no symptoms until it's advanced to a late stage. One sign that an individual has gum disease, however, is bleeding after brushing or flossing. Eventually, if left untreated, the infection and accumulation of calculus, a hard substance that is the byproduct of bacteria, separates the tooth from the gum and then the bone. That ultimately leads to tooth loss. A healthy, disease-free mouth also means a healthy body. Studies have linked gum disease to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Yu.

TREATMENT: Traditionally, gum disease was treated with surgery that involved cutting the diseased gum away. More and more, however, dentists are opting to perform laser gum surgery. The PerioLase is a wire-thin laser that kills bacteria and removes calculus. It was approved by the FDA in 2001. Recent studies show the procedure promotes the growth of cementum cells on the roots of treated teeth, which helps them reattach to the bone. Dr. Yu says in addition to little bleeding, his patients have reported very little discomfort. "In most of the situations, I'm not prescribing any pain medication at all," he said. Dr. Yu says while healing following the procedure begins immediately; it takes around nine months to a year for the full healing to occur.

A NEW STANDARD? Some dentists say the laser option should not be considered the new standard for treating gum disease. Some are leery that there are not yet long term results, and many are also reluctant to invest in the $70,000 equipment. While he says so far he's seen results comparable to traditional surgery, Dr. Yu agrees that the PerioLase should not become an absolute. "I would say that the traditional surgeries, they are not obsolete," he stated. "They are here to stay. I believe that this laser is a supplement or alternative to the traditional surgeries." He went on to say, "In certain situations, the traditional is better. The laser is not the answer to every single situation."

? For More Information, Contact:

Robert J. Yu, DMD
Tampa Bay Dental Implants & Periodontics
Saint Petersburg, FL
(727) 384-9122