Online Dental Education Library
Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
When to See a Periodontist
Periodontal treatment may be sought in several ways. Your general dentist or a hygienist may recommend a consultation with a periodontist if they find signs of periodontal disease through the course of a checkup or other dental care appointment. You may also decide to see a periodontist on your own, as a referral is not necessary to be seen at our office.
In fact, if you experience any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at our office without delay:
- Unexplained bleeding while performing regular cleaning or consuming food is the most common sign of a periodontal infection.
- Ongoing halitosis (bad breath), which continues despite rigorous oral cleaning, can point to periodontitis, gingivitis or the beginnings of a gum infection.
- Longer-looking and loose-feeling teeth can indicate recession of the gums and/or bone loss as a result of periodontal disease.
Patients with heart disease, diabetes, osteopenia or osteoporosis are often diagnosed with correlating periodontal infections. The bacterial infection can spread through the blood stream, affecting other areas of the body.
- Bleeding while brushing or eating normal foods
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth and gum recession
- Related health concerns
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a chronic infection of the periodontal or gum tissue. This infection is caused by the presence of a bacterial film, which is called dental plaque, that forms on the teeth surfaces. Bacteria that found in dental plaque produce toxins which irritate the gums. They may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. Plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line.
As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss. With periodontal disease, bleeding, redness and swelling do not have to be present. Further, pain is usually not associated with periodontal disease. This disease damages the teeth, gum and jawbone of more than 80% of Americans by age 45. Each case is looked at individually, because in addition to plaque there are co-factors such as genetics, smoking, and overall health, which contribute to disease severity. Once periodontal disease is detected, our goal as therapists is to provide information and treatment necessary to control/ or arrest the active infection, and help keep the disease in an inactive or controlled state.
However, don’t be fooled!
With periodontal disease, bleeding, redness and swelling do not have to be present. The periodontal disease symptoms of inflammation may only be evident with sub gingival probing. Further, pain is usually not associated with periodontal disease.
Occasionally, root canal treatment proves unsuccessful at resolving an infection in the tissues near a tooth's roots. That's when a minor surgical procedure called an apicoectomy may be recommended. Because this procedure is often performed with the aid of a microscope and other small specialized tools, it's considered a type of endodontic microsurgery. Probably the most common type of root canal surgery, an apicoectomy involves removing a small portion of the apex (tip) of the tooth's root, along with any surrounding hard or soft tissue that may be infected.
What would cause you to need an apicoectomy? There could be several reasons, including a canal that is blocked or inaccessible, an anatomical irregularity, or a fracture or crack in the tooth's roots. The procedure is normally only recommended after one or more root canal treatments have been attempted, and have failed. Since this type of problem generally occurs near the apex of the root, the procedure is often an effective way to treat a persistent infection.
Before an apicoectomy procedure, diagnostic images (such as X-rays) of the affected tooth and surrounding bone, a careful review of your medical history including medications you take (both prescription and non-prescription), and other factors are reviewed. If an apicoectomy is recommended, the reasons for it will be explained to you.
The Apicoectomy Procedure
Root canal surgery is usually performed under local anesthesia such as a numbing shot, so you won't feel any pain. To begin the procedure, a small incision is made in the gum, and the infection at the end of the tooth's roots is exposed. The infected tissue is then removed, along with a few millimeters of the root tip itself. A dye may be used to help make cracks or fractures easy to see; if we discover that the tooth is fractured, it may be better to extract (remove) it at this time instead of completing the apicoectomy.
Next, a microscope and light are used to examine the tiny canals. They will be cleaned with an ultrasonic instrument, then filled with an inert material and sealed up with a small filling. To finish the procedure, a small bone graft may be placed at the affected site, and then the gum tissue covering the tooth's root will be sutured (sewn) closed. X-rays may also be taken as the procedure nears completion. Afterwards, instructions on postoperative care will be given, and you'll go home. Most apicoectomies take about 30 to 90 minutes to complete.
Following the procedure, you may experience some swelling and soreness in the area that was treated. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen) are usually all that's needed to control any discomfort. You can probably return to normal activities the following day, but you may want to avoid eating hard or crunchy foods or brushing vigorously for a few days afterwards. If your sutures aren't self-dissolving, you will be asked to return in about a week to have them removed.
The Goal: Saving Your Tooth
Although apicoectomy is typically a safe and effective procedure, there are slight risks with any type of minor surgery. That's why apicoectomies are not recommended unless further root canal treatment won't be effective. An alternative treatment in most cases would be extraction of the tooth. However, our goal as dentists is to help you preserve your natural teeth for as long as possible.
While there are excellent methods of tooth replacement (such as dental implants), these involve further and more complex treatments, and they can be costly. An apicoectomy is generally a permanent and cost-effective solution which can help the tooth last for the rest of your life.
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