The CDC reports that periodontal disease affects more than 47.2 percent of adults over the age of thirty and more than 70.1 percent over the age of 65. Patients experience red and swollen gums, bad breath, problems chewing, sensitive teeth, and gums that have pulled away from teeth.
Traditionally, dentists dealt with the disease via a combination of deep cleaning, surgery, and, in some cases, antibiotics. But there was a problem. The pockets of infection between the teeth and gum wouldn’t always close up by themselves. That meant that new disease could become established in the following weeks and months, even when patients followed the recommended oral hygiene practices.
However, in recent years there have been technological developments that promise to tip the balance in favor of regeneration.
What Is LANAP?
Periodontitis occurs when bacteria penetrate the seal between the teeth and gum and take up residence around the root. Over time, bacteria progressively damage the surrounding tissue, opening up what dentists call a “pocket”— a void between the tooth itself and the surrounding gum.
As periodontitis continues, it interrupts the body’s natural capacity for healing, preventing it from closing the void and fighting infection. Consequently, periodontitis patients often experience repeated bouts of infection and require multiple courses of antibiotics. The gap between the gum and the tooth won’t seal, and many wind up with tooth loss.
How It Works
LANAP, however, offers a novel way to prevent this cycle of degeneration. The way the procedure works is remarkable and yet simple at the same time.
Dr. Rinaldi begins by inserting a PerioLase fiber, a laser about the width of three human hairs, into the infected pocket. The laser selectively kills diseased tissue and periodontal bacteria. The PerioLase moves around the outside of the tooth, killing infected gum cells and neighboring pathogens, sterilizing the area.
After lasering the infected tissue, Dr. Rinaldi removes plaque deposits from the root of the tooth. These form when the gingival fluid mixes with the saliva and is what prevents pockets from resealing.
To remove plaque deposits, Dr. Rinaldi uses a tiny, ultrasonic root cleaner to vibrate away the calculus. He ensures the tooth’s surface is smooth and primed for healing. After the plaque is gone, Dr. Rinaldi uses the PeriLase a second time to sterilize the root, the base of the pocket, and exposed bone.
After treatment, the blood around the tooth forms a tight seal, creating a sterile environment for healing to begin. The body can now heal the damaged tissue without constant assault from new gum disease bacteria. The seal between the tooth and the gum can reseal because barnacles of calculus are no longer in the way. In short, LANAP rejuvenates both teeth and gums and, with proper management, can prevent tooth loss long term.
Why LANAP Is Better Than Traditional Gum Disease Surgery
LANAP works differently from traditional surgery. In the classical approach to periodontal disease, dentists cut away gum with a scalpel to reduce the depth of the pocket and sterilize the area. The idea was to improve access and visibility, while also making the site easier to clean and remove offending calculi.
The problem with this technique was that it changed the shape of the gumline. Patients would endure gum grafting and sutures on the treated areas of their mouth. Recovery took a long time, and the result was never perfect. The appearance of their smile inevitably changed.
LANAP, however, doesn’t require the use of a scalpel or any sutures. Unlike traditional surgery, it is minimally invasive and generally tends to produce only mild discomfort. Furthermore, since there is no cutting of the gum, there is no recession. The appearance of the patient’s smile remains the same, if not better than before the procedure.
The fundamental advance in LANAP technology is the ability to distinguish between diseased and healthy tissue. The traditional surgical approach to periodontitis involved a lot of cutting away of diseased gum to solve the problem. But with the tiny PeriLase fiber, Dr. Rinaldi can clear away infected tissues in the most slender of pockets, removing the source of infection and facilitating healing without radical intervention.
Advantages of LANAP
There are multiple advantages to LANAP, which we will summarize below:
- Shorter healing time. Since LANAP does not require cutting away gum tissue or sutures, recovery is more rapid. Furthermore, the killing of bacteria and the removal of barnacles of calculus facilitates superior healing.
- Elimination of recession. Receding gum lines part and parcel of the traditional approach to gum disease. But LANAP eliminates this. Gums remain intact, leaving the aesthetics of the patient’s smile unchanged.
- Less pain. Traditional surgery tends to be more uncomfortable for most patients, again because of the cutting and suturing of the gum. Many patients prefer to have teeth extracted than to go through cutting gum and grafting new tissue in its place. LANAP avoids this and only rarely requires post-operative pain medication.
- Better long-term results. LANAP tends to produce better and more predictable long term results for patients. The PerioLase stimulates regeneration of the gum material, facilitating healing, and encouraging stronger reattachment.
LANAP, therefore, is one of the most promising and highly-regarded treatments for periodontal disease. Patients have a genuine opportunity to rejuvenate chronically infected areas of gum and improve their oral health. It avoids many of the problems associated with surgery and, importantly, leaves visible soft tissues mostly intact. Finally, it prevents any aesthetic changes that might cause confidence issues going forward.