Periodontitis surgery

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Surgery

This section from a panoramic X-ray film depicts the teeth of the lower left quadrant, exhibiting generalized severe bone loss of 30-80%. The red line depicts the existing bone level, whereas the yellow line depicts where the bone was originally, prior to the patient developing periodontal disease. The pink arrow, on the right, points to a furcation involvement, or the loss of enough bone to reveal the location at which the individual roots of a molar begin to branch from the single root trunk; this is a sign of advanced periodontal disease. The blue arrow, in the middle, shows up to 80% bone loss on tooth #21, and clinically, this tooth exhibited gross mobility. Finally, the peach oval, to the left, highlights the aggressive nature with which periodontal disease generally affects mandibular incisors. Because their roots are generally situated very close to each other, with minimal interproximal bone, and because of their location in the mouth, where plaque and calculus accumulation is greatest because of the pooling of saliva, mandibular anteriors suffer excessively. The split in the red line depicts varying densities of bone that contribute to a vague region of definitive bone height.

If good oral hygiene is not yet already undertaken daily by the patient, then twice daily brushing with daily flossing, mouthwashing and use of an interdental brush needs to be started. Technique with these tools is very important. Aged persons may find that use of these interdental devices more necessary and easier, since the gaps between the teeth may become larger.

A dental hygienist or a periodontist can use professional scraping instruments, such as scalers and currettes to remove bacterial plaque and calculus (formerly referred to as tartar) around teeth and below the gum-line. There are devices that use a powerful ultra-sonic vibration and irrigation system to break up the bacterial plaque and calculus. Local anesthetic is commonly used to prevent discomfort in the patient during this process.

It is difficult to induce the body to repair bone that has been destroyed due to periodontitis. Much depends on exactly how much bone was lost and the architectural configuration of the remaining bone. Vertical defects are those instances of bone loss where the height of the bone remains somewhat constant except in the localized area where there is a steep, almost vertical drop. Horizontal defects are those instances of more generalized bone loss, resulting in anywhere from mild to severe loss of initial bone height.

Sometimes bone grafting surgery may be tried, but this has mixed success. Bone grafts are more reliable in instances of vertical defects, where there might be a sufficient "hole" within which to place the added bone. Horizontal defects are rarely if ever able to be grafted properly, as there is nowhere to secure the bone.

Dentists sometimes attempt to treat patients with periodontitis by placing tiny wafers dispensing antibiotics underneath the gumline in affected areas. However, the general scientific consensus is that antibiotic treatment is of minimal value in treating bone loss due to periodontitis. It may help to recover about one millimeter of bone, but it is questionable if this is of significant therapeutic value.

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