There are several types of dental lasers available. Some lasers are great for working on hard tissues such as teeth or bone. There are also lasers that can act as scalpels to remove lots of tissue or tumors. And other lasers can help detect cavities in teeth. Dr. Tony Kim at the Dental Day Spa of Hawaii has extensive training in many lasers and can be considered a laser dentist because he’s utilized most of the different categories of laser types. Just like any other tool in any field, certain tools are much more effective at fixing different problems. In the area of gum disease treatment, you’ll find that there are many types of laser treatments that are recommended. For the treatment of gum disease, one laser stands out head and shoulders above the rest and has much more clinical studies and protocols that show predictable success. Millennium Dental Technologies has created the Periolase which is the only FDA approved laser for the treatment of gum disease. So if you have gum disease and are interested in your laser options, I’d recommend finding a dentist who performs the LANAP procedure (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure) which is another name for the Periolase gum disease treatment.
Periodontal (Gum) Disease Stages
Gum disease is serious condition which involves destruction of the bone and tissue that supports the teeth. It usually starts with bacteria which enter the gum pockets between the tooth and the gums. If these bacteria and not cleaned out, they can multiply and cause inflammation in the surrounding gums. At this stage, the condition is called gingivitis and it is reversible as long as the bacteria and inflammation are taken care of. If gingivitis is not cleared, it can turn into an irreversible condition called periodontitis which leads to the body destroying it’s own bone that supports the tooth. If left unchecked, it can lead to eventual tooth loss. It’s also a major cause of bad breath and can lead to the formation of gaps between your teeth and make them loose and unattractive. The problem is that gum disease usually doesn’t hurt in early and moderate stages but by the time it does hurt, the disease is already at the more serious advanced stages. Some early signs to notice would be bleeding of the gums during brushing and flossing, bad breath which does not go away after brushing and rinsing, or lots of food stuck between the teeth after eating. If you have any of these symptoms and you haven’t seen a dentist or periodontist in awhile, these are definitely potential warning signs that you may have gum disease. Periodontal disease has strong correlations with high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes, and lower weight babies and higher risk of preterm births for women. It’s can be a serious health condition. Luckily, Dr. Kim is a laser dentist who can treat your gum disease with or without laser gum surgery.
Here is a good video which covers some basics of periodontal disease:
Treatment of Gum Disease
The first line of defense will be cleanings. Gingivitis can usually be cleared up with cleanings which scrape away the plaque and tartar which feeds the bacteria which cause gingivitis. Periodontitis involves deep cleanings which are usually done over 2-4 visits which require numbing and scraping underneath the gums into the infected gum pockets. Sometimes special antibiotic powders and gels can be placed into the pockets to help treat gum disease and other dentists can use lasers (usually not FDA approved for gum disease treatment). The diode laser is the most common type of laser used for this purpose. Dr. Kim uses the only FDA approved laser called the Periolase which is a Nd:Yg laser.
For those who know they have gum disease but have not responded well to traditional therapy (deep cleanings), it could be frustrating. Deep cleanings are followed by periodontal maintenance cleanings every 3-4 months after but sometimes despite continued treatment gum disease still stays active and the gums stay inflamed and unhealthy. It’s common to see patients who come in year after year of deep cleanings without any true improvement of the gum condition. For these patients, gum surgery is the next step. This is usually done by a periodontist and involves the cutting of the gums and removal of infected bone. Sutures are usually placed after the traditional surgery to hold things in place until healing has started. This procedure can control gum disease however, there are several reasons why many patients are fearful to get the necessary treatment with pain from surgery being one of the biggest obstacles.
There is an alternative to traditional gum surgery which involves much less removal of tissue and utilizes the Periolase. The actual procedure is called Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP). LANAP is a FDA approved procedure that uses a special laser (Nd:Yg) to stimulate reattachment of the gums back onto the teeth (shrinking deep pockets). There are other parts of the treatment but it’s the Periolase (laser) which stimulates the healing. The LANAP procedure also involves adjusting the bite so teeth work better, some extra cleanings to keep plaque levels low, and a nightguard to protect the gums and teeth during sleeping.
Here is a link to a study which compared different types of gum treatments in multiple patients. Each patient received different types of therapies. The LANAP had several advantages and the research suggested that LANAP may have had beneficial effects on some of the healing from other therapies. For those who utilize lasers, this is not surprising because there are theories that the laser stimulates healing activity in the body which possible can have beneficial effects in nearby areas.
Some of the advantages of the laser gum surgery (LANAP) over traditional gum surgery:
- Less pain.
- Less gum recession after treatment.
- Faster healing.
- Can stimulate new connective tissue reattachment (stronger gum reattachment to tooth versus regular deep cleanings).
I’ve attached an animated video which shows the LANAP procedure. It basically shows the laser making the first entry, then cleaning of the hardened calculus (deposits of hardened plaque), and then the final laser pass.
Dr. Kim also offers some non-surgical comprehensive gum disease treatments which involve bacteria testing, frequent cleanings with scalers and lasers, and nutrition. And of course we offer the traditional treatment (scaling and root planing) of gum disease too. If you have gum disease and want several options to treat it, contact the office.