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What is Periodontal Flap Surgery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2016
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Periodontal flap surgery is an oral surgery procedure where the gums are temporarily pulled away from the teeth to allow a dentist to access the roots of the teeth for cleaning. This procedure is commonly used when pockets have been created in the gums, allowing plaque and debris to accumulate below the gumline. Patients cannot reach this area to clean during their regular oral care regimens and the dentist must access it surgically to clean the teeth and address any problems below the gumline. After the procedure, the gums are fixed back in place, and pockets may be eliminated if they are present by repositioning the gums slightly.

Before periodontal flap surgery can be performed, a patient must be screened. Dentists prefer to work with patients who are committed to maintaining oral health and who have low plaque above the gumline. A blood test will be used to check for potential contraindications and the patient will also be interviewed to identify risk factors. Patients with heart disease and certain other problems may not be good candidates for periodontal flap surgery because of increased infection risks.

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This procedure is usually performed with a local anesthetic, and can be uncomfortable for the patient. The oral surgeon starts by numbing the gums, and then uses a scalpel to separate them and peel them back from the teeth. Dental tools are used to remove plaque and other materials from around the roots of the teeth and the area is carefully irrigated to remove debris. Once the surgeon is satisfied, the gums are repositioned and stitched into places.

The oral mucosa heal quickly, but for the first few days after periodontal flap surgery, patients usually feel discomfort and pain. A special diet may need to be followed during surgical recovery and patients are typically given analgesic medications to take for breakthrough pain. Once the mouth has healed from periodontal flap surgery, the patient will need to follow a dental care regimen to reduce the risk of plaque buildups and regular follow-up visits will be used to check on oral health.

The risk of developing problems with the teeth and gums can be reduced with regular oral care including brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash products. Regular dental visits for a cleaning by a dental hygienist using specialized tools are also recommended and patients should plan on having their teeth inspected every one to two years for signs of decay and other dental issues.

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