If you have gum disease, then your dentist may recommend getting a deep cleaning known as scaling and root planing (SRP). During SRP, your dentist will clean below the gum line to remove plaque and smooth areas where subgingival bacteria may collect. Deep cleanings are important because if gum disease is left untreated, it can result in infection, loose teeth, and even bone loss. Some people, however, need a more extensive deep clean along with a procedure called gum flap surgery. Read on to learn more about gum flap surgery and why it may be required.
What is Gum Flap Surgery?
Gum flap surgery--also known as surgical debridement--is a procedure where your dentist cuts into the gum tissue below the gumline to access areas where SRP instruments cannot reach.
During the procedure, your dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the gum tissue and gently pull back a flap of gum tissue so that they can thoroughly clean the roots of the teeth and repair any damaged bone tissue with reshaping instruments so that the plaque has fewer places to grow. Your dentist may also place bone grafts to build the jaw bone back up.
Once the site is cleaned of plaque and the bone tissue corrected, your dentist will stitch the gum flap shut and use gauze to stop the bleeding.
Who Needs Gum Flap Surgery?
Dentists will usually proceed with more conservative treatments first, like antibiotics and SRP, before proceeding to gum flap surgery. While every case is different, this surgery is mainly for people with severe gum disease and damaged bone tissue who haven't seen improvements with other treatments. One study found that gum flap surgery could result in improved pocket depths during periodontal probing. This surgery can also improve clinical attachment gain, which means that supportive tooth structures, like periodontal ligaments and gum tissue, heal more efficiently.
What is Healing Like Post-Op?
Although gum flap surgery may sound like a daunting procedure, the good news is that it should only take patients a few days to recover. Your dentist may recommend some over-the-counter pain medications to manage any soreness. During the first day, you may need to rinse your mouth with saltwater/prescription antibiotics to reduce swelling and keep the site free of infection. You may need to halt hard physical activity for a few days as strenuous activity can increase bleeding. Your dentist may also provide a list of foods that you can eat during the first few days, such as puddings or soups, until the gum flap has healed sufficiently. Similar to a tooth extraction, you'll also want to avoid sucking motions, like with cigarettes or straws, as that could loosen the blood clots around the healing site and expose the underlying bone.
Reach out to a local family dentist for more information on this procedure, SRP, and treatments for gum disease.