What to Expect from Periodontal Surgery

Medically reviewed by Christine Frank, DDS on July 17, 2017Written by Julie Marks

Overview

If you have a serious gum infection, known as periodontal disease, your dentist might recommend surgery. This procedure can:

  • remove bacteria from beneath your gums
  • make it easier to clean your teeth
  • reshape the bones that support your teeth
  • prevent future gum damage

Read on to learn more about what happens during periodontal surgery and what the recovery is like.

Who’s a good candidate?

People with severe or advanced disease around their gums and the tissues that support their teeth are usually candidates for periodontal surgery.

If you have gum disease, your symptoms might include:

  • gums that are swollen, red, or bleeding
  • deep pockets that form between your gums and teeth
  • loose teeth
  • pain when chewing
  • bad breath
  • gums that recede or pull away from your teeth

Your doctor will let you know if you could benefit from periodontal surgery. Your dentist might recommend more conservative treatment approaches if your gum disease isn’t advanced.

Preparation

A couple of weeks before your procedure, you may need to stop taking certain medications, such as aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin), pain relievers, and blood thinners. Most dentists advise not smoking or drinking alcohol at least 24 hours before the procedure.

Your doctor might give you an antibiotic to take before your procedure to lower your chances of developing an infection.

You should also arrange for someone to take you home after your procedure is finished. The anesthesia, sedation, or other medications you’ll receive during the procedure might affect your reaction times. That means it may not be safe for you to drive afterward.

Follow your doctor’s specific instructions on how to prepare for your surgery.

Procedure

A dentist or periodontist performs the surgery. There are different types of surgical options. Your doctor will determine what type of surgery or surgeries are appropriate for your specific condition.

Flap surgery

With this common procedure, surgeons make small cuts in your gum and lift a section of tissue back. Then, they remove tartar and bacteria from your tooth and from under your gums. The gums are sutured back, so the tissue fits firmly around your teeth. Once you heal, it will be easier to clean areas on your teeth and gums.

Bone grafting

If gum disease has damaged the bone surrounding your tooth root, your dentist might have to replace it with a graft. The bone graft can be made from small parts of your own bone, a synthetic bone, or donated bone. This procedure helps prevent tooth loss and may help promote natural bone regrowth.

Guided tissue regeneration

This technique involves placing a small piece of material between your bone and gum tissue to allow bone to regrow.

Soft tissue grafts

When gums recede, a graft can help restore some of the tissue you lost. Dentists remove a small piece of tissue from the roof of your mouth or use donor tissue to attach to the areas where tissue is sparse or missing.

Proteins

Sometimes, surgeons apply a gel that contains special proteins to the diseased tooth root. This can encourage healthy bone and tissue growth.

Recovery

Your recovery depends on how severe your disease is, your overall health, and the type of procedure you had. Follow your dentist’s instructions carefully.

Typically, you can expect to have some minor bleeding and discomfort after any kind of dental surgery. You should be able to resume many normal activities about a day after your procedure.

Smoking can interfere with how your body heals after surgery. Try to avoid this habit for as long as possible after your periodontal procedure. Here are some tips to help you avoid cigarettes.

Your dentist might ask you to use a special mouth rinse or take an antibiotic after your surgery. You might not be able to brush or floss in certain areas of your mouth until they’ve healed.

Many doctors recommend eating soft foods for a week or two after the procedure. Some examples of suitable foods include:

  • Jell-O
  • pudding
  • ice cream
  • yogurt
  • scrambled eggs
  • cottage cheese
  • pasta
  • mashed potatoes

Cost

The cost of periodontal surgery varies greatly depending on the type of procedure and the severity of your disease. Gum disease treatments may cost between $500 and $10,000.

Many insurances companies will cover at least part of the cost of periodontal surgery. Talk to your doctor if you can’t afford the procedure. Sometimes, your dentist’s office staff can negotiate better payment options with insurance companies or set up a payment plan with you. It’s also important to remember that prolonging treatment can lead to more complex and expensive therapies in the future.

Outlook

Maintaining healthy gums is important for your overall wellness. Having periodontal surgery can lower your chances of tooth loss and further gum damage. You may also be less likely to develop other health problems, such as:

Talk to your dentist to see if this procedure could be beneficial.

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