The first step in the treatment of periodontal disease involves the removal of the bacteria that inhabit the periodontal pockets in the form of plaque and tartar. The removal of the pocket irritants – scaling and root planning – is combined with oral hygiene instructions that are aimed at improving the patient’s ability to control plaque and avoid bacteria from reinfecting the periodontal pockets. Several weeks after completion of scaling and root planing, a periodontal re-evaluation is completed to assess the healing response. If the periodontal pockets do not decrease and the gums are still unhealthy, surgical treatment may be indicated.
Pocket depth reduction is a term used for a series of different surgical procedures aimed at gaining access to the root surface to effectively remove calculus and to reduce the size of the pockets to help prevent bacteria from settling in.
What to Expect
Pocket depth reduction is done in our office with local anesthesia. After lifting the gum back, the bacterial plaque and tartar are removed from the root surfaces. Infected bone and gum tissue are removed and areas where bacteria can hide are cleaned and smoothed out. This allows gums to better reattach to healthy bone and eliminate gum pockets. Stitches are placed to aid in healing. The stitches are usually removed about ten days after the surgery. Follow-up appointments are scheduled as necessary to evaluate healing and plaque control.
Post-surgical discomfort may last a few days and is usually minimal. It can be easily managed with commonly available over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Patients can expect to follow their normal routine the day after surgery. We will provide special instructions related to diet, exercise, and medications.
After pocket depth reduction, patients may experience heightened tooth sensitivity. This is temporary and usually resolves within a few weeks. There are chemical aids available that help reduce sensitivity.
Some people also may experience looser teeth after periodontal surgery. This also is a transient finding that occurs as part of the normal healing process. With proper plaque control and bite adjustment, the teeth usually tighten up in a few weeks.
Another concern after pocket depth reduction is that the teeth may appear longer and that there are spaces in between the teeth. Actually, longer teeth are the result of periodontal disease, not of periodontal surgery. As periodontal disease infects and destroys the bone that encases the roots, the root surfaces become exposed. They do not appear exposed because they are covered by the inflamed, swollen gums that form the periodontal pocket. Without proper treatment, the periodontal pockets continue to deepen, giving way to more infection, bone loss, and eventually tooth loss and systemic complications.
If periodontal pockets do not resolve after scaling and root planing, we may recommend pocket depth reduction. Whether Dr. Timothy Wu performs a gingivectomy, periodontal flap surgery, orosseous surgery, the patient will benefit from the reduction in pocket depth and the reattachment of the gums to the root surface. Pocket depth reduction, when followed by supportive periodontal treatment, is a predictable procedure that can help keep teeth healthy and reduce the risk of serious health problems related to periodontal disease.