Flaps and pockets sound like clothing features, and grafts and regeneration sound like steps in pruning tree limbs, but all are terms to know if facing issues with gum, or periodontal disease. Similar to clothing, gums should fit well around the teeth to keep their sensitive parts -- the roots and nerves -- from being exposed, and like to trees, tooth roots need to be firmly planted into our gums in order to stand upright and not fall over or fall out.
Gum inflammation, or gingivitis, and periodontal disease are very common, and most people in the United States will battle the tartar and bacteria that lead to build up at the gum level. A dentist can keep gum disease at bay if we do our part and brush, floss and keep regular appointments every six months or so to address cleaning at and below the gum line. If left untreated, however, minor to moderate gingivitis can become advance gum disease and more aggressive treatments will be needed to save the teeth [source: NIDCR].
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the U.S., 4 to 12 percent of adults nationwide have advanced gum disease. Many of these individuals would be candidates for gum surgery, and even those with more moderate forms of periodontal disease may need surgical intervention [source: CDC]. With costs in the thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars, though, a dental professional will work with patients to determine whether the surgical route is necessary and if it will save a person's teeth for the long-term. Saving teeth is a primary goal in dentistry, but balancing the effectiveness with the cost will likely help determine the best course of care and treatment. An individual may or may not have sufficient health or dental insurance to cover all or most of the surgery, and that can be a factor as well.
Gum or periodontal surgery has some similarities with the tree pruning mentioned earlier because it does, in part, involve cutting away in order to stimulate growth of tissues, just as removing drying and shrinking part of trees encourages fresh growth of limbs. And sometimes, new tissue needs to be grafted in.
We'll look at when and why it might be necessary to cut into the gums, next.