Tooth Talk: Gum disease and lasers

Q: I’ve heard some things about treating my gum disease with a laser, is this possible? My hygienist was telling me she could use a laser to treat some of my gum pockets. Can you give me some more information? A: Thanks so much for the great question. I’m happy to give you some more information.

First of all let me clarify something about lasers and the State of Florida. Unfortunately, some states allow dental hygienists to use lasers in their scope of practice but Florida is not one of those states. Perhaps there was a miscommunication somewhere in the explanation.

Many dentists are employing the use of lasers in the treatment of gum disease. In my opinion, they are a great alternative to the traditional cut and stitch type of gum surgery which, in the past, was the standard of care. They can also be a wonderful adjunct to traditional “deep cleaning.”

There is virtually no discomfort or downtime for the patient and healing occurs more readily with this type of therapy.

Let’s talk a little about gum pockets for those who are unfamiliar with the term. A pocket can be best described as a vertical space around a tooth or teeth beginning at the top of the gum and extending down to the level of the bone that hold the teeth in place.

Imagine a pocket in a pair of pants. Gentle probing is used to determine the depth of the pocket and measurements are taken to determine the presence of disease. Excessive pocket depth, bleeding and inflammation are all signs of disease. These pocket areas can involve one tooth, several teeth or all the teeth. These areas are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to thrive. Left untreated, tooth loss is the end result.

Treatment with a laser can eradicate the disease and promote health as long as the patient is willing to participate. This means regular visits to your hygienist once the treatment has been completed. Further treatment with a laser can be particularly effective because recent scientific discoveries have told us that the bacteria that cause the disease to proliferate lie not only in the pocket itself but actually infiltrate the tissues inside the pocket wall.

Lasers being light and light being heat have the ability to penetrate these layers of tissue killing the bacteria left behind by traditional therapies. It really is a win/win all around.

Dr. Fred Eck, D.D.S., received his Doctorate of Dental Surgery at the University of Detroit Mercy and is licensed by the Florida State Board of Dentistry. Send your questions to Marco Dental Care, 950 N. Collier Blvd., Suite 305, Marco Island; call 389-9400; or visit marcodentalcare.com.

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