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Gingivectomy for Gum Disease

Surgery Overview

You may need surgery for severe gum disease (periodontitis) if it cannot be cured with antibiotics or root planing and scaling. A gingivectomy removes and reshapes loose, diseased gum tissue to get rid of pockets between the teeth and gums. A gum specialist (periodontist) or oral surgeon often will do the procedure.

The doctor will start by numbing your gums with a local anesthetic. He or she may use a laser to remove loose gum tissue.

After removing the gum tissue, the doctor may put a temporary putty over your gum line. This will protect your gums while they heal. You can eat soft foods and drink cool or slightly warm liquids while the putty is in place and your gums are healing.

What To Expect After Surgery

You can return to your normal activities after the anesthetic wears off. It usually takes a few days or weeks for the gums to heal. The contour or shape of your gums may change.

Most gum surgeries are fairly simple and are not too uncomfortable. You can take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to reduce pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

After a gingivectomy, it will be easier for you to keep your teeth and gums clean.

Why It Is Done

A gingivectomy is necessary when the gums have pulled away from the teeth, creating deep pockets. The pockets make it hard to clean away plaque. Gingivectomy is usually done before gum disease has damaged the bone supporting your teeth.

How Well It Works

If you maintain good dental care after surgery, a gingivectomy is likely to help stop gum disease. Your gums should become pink and healthy again.

Risks

Gum surgery can introduce harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. Gum tissue is also at risk of infection. You may need to take antibiotics before and after surgery if you have a condition that puts you at high risk for a severe infection or if infections are particularly dangerous for you. You may need to take antibiotics if you:

  • Have certain heart problems that make it dangerous for you to get a heart infection called endocarditis.
  • Have an impaired immune system.
  • Had recent major surgeries or have man-made body parts, such as an artificial hip or heart valve.

What To Think About

  • Gingivectomy may help keep gum disease from further damaging your gum tissue, teeth, and bones by helping you to clean better around and between your teeth. If bones are damaged, it is more likely that you will lose your teeth.
  • Gum disease usually will progress if you do not brush and floss regularly after surgery or if you continue to use tobacco.
  • To promote healing, stop all use of tobacco. Smoking or using spit tobacco reduces your ability to fight infection of your gums and delays healing. To learn more, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • Regular follow-up with your dentist is important. If your gum disease gets worse, you may need a different type of surgery.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
Last Revised May 29, 2013

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