Without effective treatment, periodontal (gum) disease can eventually lead to tooth loss. That’s why it’s imperative to remove bacterial plaque and calculus — the main cause of the disease — from all teeth and gum surfaces. For moderate to advanced gum disease, this could require a procedure known as flap surgery to gain access to deeper infected areas.
This type of procedure involves making scalpel incisions into the gum tissue to create a flap opening. Through this opening we’re able to gain access to the deeper pockets that have formed because of the tissue detachment that occurs following bone loss. The flap opening allows for better access to the root surfaces for removal of plaque and calculus (tartar). Once we’ve finished, we then suture the flap back into place to reduce the pockets and allow the area to heal.
While effective, flap surgery is considered moderately invasive and may produce mild post-procedural discomfort. Recently, however, a specially designed laser for periodontal therapy shows promise of less invasiveness and patient discomfort than traditional flap surgery.
A laser is an intense and narrow beam of light of a single wavelength. A periodontal laser can pass without effect through healthy cell tissue (like sunlight through a window pane) but interacts and “vaporizes” the darkly pigmented bacteria in diseased tissue. The laser energy is delivered in pulses to minimize any heat-related damage to healthy cells.
The periodontal laser can precisely remove diseased tissue, even where it mingles with healthy tissue. Once it’s removed, the root surfaces can be cleaned with ultrasonic scalers and/or hand instruments. And because a medical laser seals the tissue it cuts, it doesn’t produce open incisions as with flap surgery that require suturing afterward.
Studies of post-operative recovery after laser surgery showed similar infection reduction and renewed bone and tissue growth as with traditional surgery. Patients, however, reported much less discomfort after the laser procedure. Although more research is needed, it initially appears periodontal laser treatments can effectively treat gum disease with minimal interference with healthy tissue and greater comfort for patients.
Nolan Gould of the hit TV show Modern Family has an uncommon gift for comedy, but he also has a very common orthodontic problem: too many teeth for the size of his mouth, which often results in “crowding.”
“My teeth used to be pretty messed up,” Nolan recently told Dear Doctor magazine in an exclusive interview. “I had two extra teeth when I was born. They hadn't come out (erupted) yet. And all the other teeth that were already there were starting to point backwards because it was getting so crowded in my mouth. They had to remove those two (extra) teeth,” he said.
Although being born with extra teeth is somewhat unusual, needing to have teeth extracted for orthodontic reasons is not. In fact, orthodontic treatment often involves removing teeth to relieve crowding. It makes sense when you think about it: When there are too many teeth for the size of the dental arches (upper and/or lower jaws) or the teeth are larger in size than the dental arch can accommodate, there may not be enough space to align them properly. The necessary space can be created by removing teeth.
The teeth most frequently extracted for orthodontic reasons are the first bicuspid teeth. These are the ones right between the cuspid, or eyeteeth (under the eyes) and the molars (biggest back teeth). Once there is enough space, the orthodontist can choose from a variety of orthodontic appliances to align the teeth, depending on the specific needs of the individual.
In Nolan's case, it was the extra two teeth he was born with that were removed. Afterwards, the young actor's orthodontist was able to shift Nolan's remaining teeth into proper alignment using orthodontic appliances called Crozats. Made of metal wires, Crozats go around the back teeth and behind the front teeth, making them virtually invisible.
“You can remove them, which is really good for acting, especially because you can't see them,” Nolan explained. “I can wear them 24/7 and nobody will ever notice.”
Nolan's orthodontic appliances may not be noticeable, but his fabulous smile certainly is!
If you would like to learn more about improving tooth alignment with orthodontics, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nolan Gould, please see “Nolan Gould.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Tooth Removal for Orthodontic Reasons.”
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