Periodontal Disease: If You Need Surgery

If you have periodontal disease, you may need surgery to save 1 or more teeth. Surgery can help reduce the size of pockets that form between tooth and gum. It can also help regenerate bone and other tissue, or adjust the gumline. In addition, surgery can be used to reach tartar that can’t be removed with other methods.

Your surgical experience

Periodontal surgery takes place in the dentist’s office. You will go home soon after it is completed. To control pain you’ll be given local anesthesia. You may also be given medicine to help you relax (a sedative). Be sure to arrange in advance for a ride home. As part of the surgery, a slit is made and the gum pulled back. This allows access for tartar and bacteria removal and bone reshaping. Stitches are placed after the removal to close the cut. A putty-like dressing may be placed to protect the surgery site during healing.

After surgery

Hand holding gel ice pack in towel.

Your instructions right after surgery may include:

  • Resting for a day or 2

  • Taking medicine to control pain or prevent infection

  • Using ice or medicine to control swelling

  • Not smoking

  • Special instructions for cleaning teeth

  • Caring for the surgical area or dressing

You’ll have a follow-up visit in 1 to 3 weeks to check how you’re healing. This is when stitches and any dressing (protective covering) are removed.

Risks and complications

These vary depending on the surgery. In general, risks and complications of periodontal surgery may include any of the following:

  • Pain or discomfort

  • Increased tooth movement or sensitivity (often temporary)

  • Cheek swelling and bruising

  • Numbness or tingling, due to temporary or permanent damage to nearby nerves

  • Exposure of more crown or root

When to call your dentist

Call your dentist after surgery if any of the following happens:

  • You have excessive bleeding or swelling.

  • The stitches come undone earlier than your surgeon has told you to expect.

  • Part or all of the dressing comes off or is uncomfortable.

  • You have persistent pain.

  • You have a fever over 100.4ºF (38ºC).

  • You have questions about your condition or treatment.