When your gum disease advances to the point where you need surgery to treat it, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist. A periodontist specializes in the treatment of the structures that support your teeth such as the gums and bones. One treatment the periodontist may recommend is flap surgery. Here's how this type of surgery helps gum disease and what you can expect when you have it done.

How Flap Surgery Treats Gum Disease

When gum disease progresses, pockets of infection form at the base of your teeth. This causes your gums to pull away and your teeth to get loose. The infection can even go all the way into your bone. The only way to clear out the infection is to pull back your gum tissue so the deep portions of your teeth can be reached and cleaned.

To do this, the periodontist cuts a flap into your gum and pulls it open. Then, the infection is scraped away and your teeth and bone are washed clean. You may need to have treatments on the bone, such as a bone graft, to restore health to the bone so it can support your teeth. Once the area under the gum has been cleaned and restored, your gums are sealed tight against your teeth with stitches and a bandage. As your gums heal, they tighten against your teeth once again so bacteria can't invade and create pockets of infection.

How Gum Flap Surgery Is Done

Your periodontist performs the surgery in the office or dental clinic using a long-acting local anesthetic so you won't feel any pain. You may also be given a sedative if you have anxiety over having the procedure done and to make you more comfortable. If you don't need a bone graft, the procedure is fairly quick and easy to go through. You'll be able to go home right away, but you'll need someone to drive you if you undergo sedation. Your periodontist will provide you with medication to take at home to help with pain and discomfort once the anesthesia wears off.

What To Expect With Recovery

Your gums will probably be swollen and sore for a few days. You can control the pain with ice packs and pain medication from your dentist. You'll probably be given antibiotics to take as well, and your dentist may give you prescription mouthwash to use to support gum healing.

You should avoid smoking until your periodontist says you can resume because smoking will slow down healing. Avoid activities that cause bleeding and interfere with clotting, such as drinking through a straw and engaging in strenuous activity. You'll also need to eat a soft diet because you won't be able to chew on the area of the surgery for a few days. You'll have an appointment with your dentist to have stitches removed and your progress assessed. At that time, your periodontist will let you know if it is safe to resume your normal diet and activities.

Gum flap surgery can save your teeth when gum disease is advanced. However, it won't keep gum disease from coming back. You'll need to practice good oral hygiene and see your family dentist for regular cleanings to keep your teeth healthy and avoid additional surgeries in the future. For more information, contact dentists at offices like New England Dental Specialists of Norwood.