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Laser Gum Therapy

Why use a laser? First, let's keep the goal in mind. Periodontal "pocketing" is an effect of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an infectious process, and has been linked with other health problems in other parts of the body. The goal in periodontal treatment is to control or eliminate this infection, and help the body's own healing response to be successful.

Since periodontal disease has several complex factors, we often "attack" it on several levels. One of the most important phases is treating the pockets. These little pockets under the gumline are teeming with bacteria and other microorganisms. The toxins that these microbes produce and the chemicals that the body's immune system releases in response to the microbes contribute to the inflammation and breakdown of tissue and deepening of the pockets. If these pockets are more than about 3 millimeters deep, home brushing and flossing can't clean them very well. That's where this phase of treatment comes in.

The in-office treatment is aimed at eliminating the bacteria in the pockets and setting the stage for healing. One of the great technological advances to help accomplish this is the dental laser. A super-fine tip with laser light energy is slid into the pocket, moving it around to reach every aspect of the pocket under the gumline of each tooth. The laser light energy has an affinity for dark pigmented bacteria, the kinds that are the most damaging in periodontal disease. These microbes are instantly destroyed. These microorganisms also inhabit the porous surface of the root. The laser de-toxifies this root surface without damaging the root. This allows the body to form a re-attachment to the root thereby closing the pocket and returning the pocket to a shallow and healthy condition. Healthy gum tissue is also not harmed by the use of the laser. The same process also removes the inner lining of these pockets, which is inflamed, diseased tissue. This is what is termed curettage. It used to have to be done with sharp, metal scraping instruments - you may remember the feel of that. With the laser, it is painless! It's also much more effective. Toxins are flushed away, bacteria are removed (the pocket is virtually sterilized), and a fresh tissue surface is created that can now heal rather than having to fight the bacterial toxins. There is little or no bleeding afterward, and little or no discomfort. It's really a remarkable addition to our "tools" for treating periodontal disease.

Of course, it is not a "magic wand." There are still additional techniques that usually accompany laser treatment. If there is tartar (calculus) under the gumline, this still has to be removed. The laser "softens" this, making it much easier to remove. Follow-up at home may involve such techniques as irrigating with an anti-microbial solution to aid healing and prevent re-infection. Follow-up in the office is important, as always, to monitor progress, continue to aid healing, and evaluate if further treatment options are necessary.

Our talented and caring hygienists Jeff and Allison have now both completed level two laser certification. They are among only a handful of hygienists in Washington State who are qualified to use laser in treating gum disease. Jeff or Allison would be happy to discuss this new technology with you.

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