Gum treatment is needed when a patient is suffering from gingivitis or periodontitis. Both of these diseases can cause major health problems in the body, and if left untreated, they will eventually cause teeth to fall out. They can also cause permanent cosmetic issues that will require expensive replacements to fix, so curtailing any problems with proper hygiene should be the goal.
Gingivitis is the less severe version of periodontitis, and its symptoms include redness and swelling of soft tissue around the tooth and bleeding while brushing. There is typically little pain with gingivitis, which may cause some people to delay gum treatment. This disease is caused by bacterial growth in pockets around the tooth. Periodontitis is caused by this bacteria growing deep into these pockets, close to the tooth root.
Simple, non-surgical procedures can be used to prevent or reverse gingivitis, and typically involve cleaning, scaling or planing. Scaling is deep tissue removal of plaque and tartar, and planing is evening out the rough surfaces of the tooth root, so that it is easier for soft tissue to grow back around the root. Surgical procedures are chosen when tissue recession is too severe to reverse and when bone damage may be present. At this point, oral hygiene is not enough to stop decay caused by bacteria.
During flap surgery, the dentist cuts open and lifts the soft tissue around the tooth, revealing pockets of bacteria. This bacteria is removed and the soft tissue is molded around the root tightly, so that further bacterial growth is slowed or prevented. In extreme cases, bone or tissue grafts are used to restore areas wracked by decay, and guided regeneration using mesh fabrics can direct the formation of new bone and gum cells.