How Lasers in Dental Care Can Help Fight Off the Silent Painless Killer Hiding Below the Gum Line
If you want a beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime, you need healthy gums.
Maintaining ideal gum health is not only important for holding teeth in place, it also decreases the risk of heart, liver and kidney diseases along with diabetes.
Our mouths are filled with bacteria — 800 different types to be exact — and even the slightest oral infection can send that bacteria into the rest of the body through your gums.
Periodontal disease, commonly referred to as gum disease, is a silent bacterial infection that occurs between the tooth and the gum pocket, causing redness, swelling and bleeding. And it’s more common than people realize.
Eighty percent of American adults have some form of gum disease, but without proper dental care, they may not even know they have it. Infection forms underneath the gums. More often than not, it’s completely painless, attacking the gum tissue and jawbone in such a way that most people are unaware of the disease.
“If you have bleeding gums when you brush your teeth or floss, it’s not normal,” says Dr. Jill Morris, an accredited cosmetic dentist, who owns World Class Dentistry in Sarasota with her husband, Dr. Burr Bakke. “Your gums should never bleed.”
As bacteria, along with mucous and other particles, builds up, it forms plaque that adheres to your teeth. If not removed, the plaque can harden and form tartar, which can become increasingly harmful the longer it’s left on your teeth.
When gums bleed, bacteria and toxins from the mouth enter the bloodstream and begin to erode and destroy the bone that supports the teeth. This affects the organs and creates an inflammatory reaction throughout the body.
In addition to having an increased risk for heart, liver and kidney diseases and diabetes, patients with gum disease also can have an increased risk of stroke or heart attack.
“Being a dentist, I believe the mouth and the health of your teeth and gums is the most important factor in the overall health of the body,” says Dr. Morris.
At World Class Dentistry, Dr. Morris is able to treat gum disease without surgery. Using laser therapy, Dr. Morris is able to offer her patients the most comfortable gum therapy to treat the disease. The CO2 laser is used to treat inflamed gums with deep pockets by killing any bacteria, viruses and fungi that are traveling through the gum tissue.
The process of lasering the gum tissue causes the tissue to reattach to the tooth. Therefore, an uncleanable 6mm pocket becomes a healthy cleanable 3mm pocket again. “A 3mm pocket can be cleaned daily at home with floss, water picks and tooth brushing,” says Dr. Morris. “This prevents the build up and invasion of the bacteria. A 6mm pocket cannot be cleaned in total, which is why we want to eliminate deep pockets around teeth.”
Unlike the scalpel method, laser therapy is virtually painless as the gums are never cut and shots or numbing aren’t necessary beforehand.
“The protocol we use is very innovative in Florida,” says Dr. Morris. “In many states across the U.S., hygienists use the laser right alongside their other tools because of the effectiveness of the laser in keeping gum tissue healthy. Unfortunately in Florida, hygienists cannot use lasers yet. Hopefully, the laws will change soon. For example, in California, hygienists have been using lasers for over 20 years.”
In addition to laser therapy, Dr. Morris stresses the importance of proper home care, including the use of water picks, electric toothbrushes and healthy probiotic lozenges. Once someone has had gum disease, they are more prone for it to recur.
“That is key,” says Dr. Morris. “You want to clean the whole pocket depth surrounding a tooth. Research shows that you don’t cure gum disease, but I have been able to help people to remain stable for many, many years and have been able to save teeth.”