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Gum Disease Treatment: When Surgery is an Option

Infections and other conditions impacting the gums may necessitate surgery. Learn more about the options available for New York City patients.


When most people hear the phrase oral surgery, procedures involving the teeth usually come to mind. However, certain conditions can be addressed, and aesthetic improvements made when surgery is performed on the gums. Most frequently, gum surgery is employed to treat the advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis. This occurs when bacteria build up and impact the integrity of tooth-supporting bones and tissues.

At SmilesNY Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry, a state-of-the-art dental practice located in the heart of New York City, several procedures are performed by our highly experienced periodontist to repair and restore the health and appearance of patients’ gums. If you’ve been advised that you will need to undergo gum surgery, it may be helpful to learn more about the specifics of these procedures.

What is periodontitis?

The most serious form of gum disease, periodontitis is caused by bacteria that accumulate on the teeth and gums over time. Among the host of conditions that can put men and women at an increased risk of experiencing periodontitis are genetics, smoking, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hormonal changes, poor nutrition, and the use of certain medications.

Periodontitis begins as gingivitis, which causes inflammation and bleeding of the gums. During the earliest stages of gum disease, the gums may pull away (or recede) from the teeth resulting in the formation of small, bacteria-harboring pockets. Some bone loss also may occur. As the disease progresses, bleeding and pain may be present and teeth may loosen as bone support diminishes. Its advanced stage, called periodontitis, causes the deterioration of the connective tissue that holds the teeth in place and destroys the gums as well as other tissues and bones that support the teeth.

Extreme pain while chewing may be experienced along with a foul taste and odor in the mouth, abscesses in the mouth, and tooth loss. Tooth roots may also become exposed and eating may become more difficult. Periodontitis can put individuals at an increased risk for diabetes, respiratory conditions, and heart disease, as well as cause serious complications in women who are pregnant.

What is gingival flap surgery?

When New York City patients with periodontitis experience ongoing inflammation in areas of the mouth that are hard to reach or challenging to brush and floss, gingival flap surgery may be ordered by the expert periodontist at SmilesNY Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry.

Following an oral examination to diagnose periodontitis, it will be determined whether a patient’s health is good enough to undergo surgery. If so, the teeth will be thoroughly cleaned to remove plaque and tartar that has built up. The area of the mouth that is targeted for treatment will be numbed with local anesthesia before incisions are made in the gums. A scalpel will be used to separate and lift the gums away from the teeth, forming a flap. With access to the tooth roots well as underlying bone, the periodontist can remove inflamed tissue from between the teeth. With a procedure called scaling and root planing, plaque and tartar will be removed. Meanwhile, defects in the bone may also be corrected by recontouring and smoothing its edges. Once this work is completed, the gums will be positioned back onto the teeth and stitched into place.

What is a gingivectomy?

Another gum surgery, called a gingivectomy, may be used to treat and effectively reverse periodontal disease, which is estimated to affect nearly half of all adults over the age of 30. During a gingivectomy, a portion of the diseased gum around a tooth is numbed and surgically removed. The gum pockets and teeth are deep cleaned before the gums are reattached to the area around the teeth with stitches.

Gingivectomies are also performed as a cosmetic dentistry procedure to increase the height or width of a single tooth or a section of teeth. At SmilesNY Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry, our experienced periodontist can advise New York City patients whether a gingivectomy is the correct procedure to help them achieve their aesthetic dental goals.

What is gingivoplasty?

In cases when the gums are healthy, but patients are displeased with their appearance in the mouth, gingivoplasty may be performed. This involves trimming back the gums to surgically improve their shape. Gingivoplasty is especially effective for New York City patients who have what is commonly referred to as a gummy smile, a condition in which too much of the teeth are covered by the gums. During the procedure, the gums are reshaped, and a greater amount of tooth surface is revealed. In some cases, the gums are excessively thick due to hyperplasia, which is an overgrowth of the gum tissue, or a genetic condition. With gingivoplasty, the extra gum mass can be removed to improve and restore a patient’s confidence in the appearance of their smile.

Gingivoplasty frequently follows a gingivectomy. The latter is used to remove gum pockets where plaque and tartar accumulate. With nowhere for bacteria to hide, the gums usually can better heal as a result. However, a gingivectomy can leave the gums looking a bit, jagged, misshapen and generally worse for wear. Gingivoplasty can be performed to reshape and make other aesthetic adjustments to the gums.

Recovering from gum surgery

It is not unusual for New York City patients to experience some mild to moderate pain, bleeding and swelling following any form of gum surgery. These may be alleviated with pain medications that may be prescribed to you, along with antibiotics to help prevent infection from developing. Ice packs applied to the face outside of the treated areas may help to reduce swelling. It is extremely important to keep your mouth as well as the surgical sites clean as they heal. Once your gums have recovered, it is important to stick to a proper oral hygiene routine that includes brushing and flossing daily and attending regular dental checkups. Doing so will go a long way toward protecting your teeth and preventing future gum infections.

Gum disease is not an issue to be taken lightly. If left unchecked, infections can cause serious oral damage that may require gum surgery. Such procedures also can be called upon to correct a so-called gummy smile and other aesthetic issues. Schedule an appointment today with the highly skilled periodontist at SmilesNY Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry in New York City to help keep your gums in top shape.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.