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What to Expect During Gingival Flap Surgery

Removing plaque — a naturally occurring, thin, invisible film of sticky bacteria — can help prevent existing periodontal (gum) disease from getting worse. In the long run, this can help save your teeth. When plaque remains on the teeth for a while, it gradually hardens to form calculus or tartar. Calculus usually forms beneath the gumline and contains many harmful bacteria.

If you have serious gum disease, your dentist or periodontist may suggest gingival flap surgery. This lets the dentist remove more calculus and plaque from the root of the tooth than treatments that don’t require surgery, such as scaling and root planing.

During flap surgery, the gum is cut and folded back (this folded gum is called a flap) so that the root of the tooth is exposed. Then the root can be cleaned, and plaque and calculus is removed.The gums are then secured back into place with stitches.

Your dentist may use substances that can help rebuild new bone and tissue around the tooth. These may include bone grafts or special proteins that can grow bone.

In a few weeks, the gums will reattach to the bone. This helps repair damage caused by gum disease.

You may have some pain and swelling after your gum surgery. Your dentist can help you manage it as you heal.

“Periodontal Pocket Reduction Procedures.” American Academy of Periodontology. Accessed 2013.

“Regenerative Procedures.” American Academy of Periodontology. Accessed 2013.

“Pain Experienced by Patients Undergoing Different Periodontal Therapies.” C.F. Canakci and V. Canakci. Journal of the American Dental Association. December 2007, vol. 138, no. 12, pp. 1563-73. Accessed 2013.

“Subgingival Calculus: Where are We Now? A Comparative Review.” E. Roberts-Harry and V.  Clerehugh. Journal of Dentistry. February 2000, vol. 28, issue 2, pp. 93-102. Abstract at Accessed 2013.     

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