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Health & Exercise Forum

National Dental Health Month: Treat Gum Disease

Feb 7, 2011

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumProfessional Contributor: Ward FitzPatrick, DDS

February is National Dental Health Month and seems like an appropriate time to present information about a new technology available in dentistry which provides a minimally invasive, painless and more effective alternative to traditional dental surgery to the gums, Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure or LANAP.

It is estimated that greater than 50% of the adult American population has moderate to severe gum disease. Yet less than 3% of those individuals receive periodontal treatment annually.* In addition to the risk of losing their teeth, there are new and growing bodies of evidence that show a link between periodontal disease and serious systemic problems like atherosclerotic heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, diabetes, preterm low birth weight babies and Alzheimer’s disease. And the list is growing.

“What scientific research is finding is that there may be a lot more at stake in treating patients with periodontal disease than just their teeth”, says Dr. Ward FitzPatrick, a practicing periodontist with offices in Kingston, PA and Port Jervis, N.Y. “It turns out that the chemicals involved in chronic inflammation as well as the bacteria associated with gum disease can travel throughout the body and contribute to other problems. It is very likely that by adequately treating gum disease and reducing inflammation as well as the bacterial challenge, we are helping patients to be less at risk for developing these other problems or at least helping to better control them.”

So why are so few periodontal patients receiving adequate treatment, and frequently foregoing referral by their general dentist to see a periodontist (gum disease specialist)?

Dr. FitzPatrick explains that many people don’t know they have gum disease, because they don’t get evaluated. It requires a careful periodontal exam and diagnosis by a dentist or specialist. Many people are afraid of conventional periodontal therapy even though it is effective. “Unfortunately, because gum disease itself is often without pain symptoms, they choose to ignore the dire consequences of their disease, often until it is too late, rather than submit to what they perceive as unpleasant or painful treatment.”

Now there is another effective treatment option however for most periodontal patients that uses modern technology to manage moderate to severe gum disease. Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure or LANAP is a minimally invasive, alternative to conventional periodontal surgery.

“Most people don’t necessarily look forward to a procedure where their gums are cut with a scalpel, the gum is opened, the roots are scraped and stitches are placed. LANAP eliminates most of the negatives associated with surgical periodontal treatment from a patient’s point of view” says FitzPatrick, a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and certified in LANAP. “It is still surgery, but done in a kinder and gentler way with a laser. The laser is not a ‘magic wand’, but it is safe and effective in properly trained hands. Unlike conventional surgery, it only removes the diseased and inflamed tissue within the periodontal pocket. The healthy tissue remains intact- a big plus. In addition, there are no scalpel incisions, no stitches, very little bleeding, little or no post op swelling or pain, and the amount of further gum recession or sensitivity caused by treatment is negligible.”

The treatment protocol is very specific and focuses on the premise that the body has an amazing capacity to heal and even regenerate as long as a favorable environment is established. Regeneration happens via stem cells located in the bone and periodontal ligament tissues adjacent to the teeth roots.

The laser and special cleaning tools are used under local anesthesia to selectively remove only the diseased periodontal pocket tissue, along with the root surface tartar. The laser kills most of the pocket bacteria, and denatures the tartar to make it easier to remove. Then, on a different setting, the laser creates a biologic seal under and around the gumline of the teeth to create as sterile an environment as possible. This allows the natural healing processes to occur resulting in pocket reduction and even regeneration of bone and supporting tissues.

Important to the success of LANAP is the elimination of any excessive biting or chewing forces by selective reshaping and or splinting of any loose  teeth so that the body has a chance to heal and regenerate; much like when a broken bone is immobilized to give it a chance to recover.

In addition, LANAP has been shown in prospective human histological studies to be effective, and result in true regeneration of lost support, in moderate to advanced periodontitis. Meaning that with treatment, in addition to providing a healthier periodontal environment in a patient’s mouth, some increase in the fundamental supportive structures of the teeth is expected.”**

Dr. FitzPatrick further explains that LANAP is a patented treatment protocol developed from a long established, but little used therapy called Excisional New Attachment Procedure (ENAP). It is an old treatment concept that never had the right instruments to be effective.” Now, that has changed with the laser. Specifically the use of an nd:yag laser, (the Periolase MVP 7”***) FitzPatrick adds “LANAP is to periodontal therapy what LASIK is to vision correction…. along with the Periolase, it is the only laser treatment protocol cleared by the FDA for treatment of periodontitis.”


PROFESSIONAL CONTRIBUTOR: Dr. Ward FitzPatrick, is a practicing periodontist with offices in Kingston, PA and Port Jervis, N.Y.