If your dentist has ever expressed concerns over your gumline, laser gum contouring may be a way to change the look of your gums and possibly improve your oral health. For these reasons, laser gum contouring can be both a cosmetic procedure as well as an oral health procedure. The good news for those having the process done is that it has largely improved over the last several decades and is now available via laser rather than surgery.
Many people who want or require gum contouring can typically have the procedure done in-office and in only an hour or two. Thanks to the use of the laser, people often report experiencing less pain and discomfort and also an accelerated timeline for healing compared to surgical gum contouring.
If issues with your gums require contouring, educate yourself before your next dentist appointment by understanding what that means, what your options are, how it works, and how it can benefit you.
What Is Laser Gum Contouring?
When the gums are contoured, it is generally to change their shape in a way that can impact a person’s oral health as well as change the gums’ outward appearance. Laser gum contouring is simply the use of a laser to perform the procedure and is proving to be a much more attractive option to those requiring the procedure instead of the older and more traditional method of surgical contouring.
There can be multiple reasons that an individual is interested in laser gum contouring, such as:
- A person who appears to have unusually small teeth and an overabundance of gums may feel that gum contouring is required to give them more confidence in their smile and overall appearance.
- Reducing the coverage of elongated gums may help teeth look longer and more like “adult” teeth.
- Contouring can also help improve the look of teeth which are crooked or simply have an uneven gum line.
Situations like these are considered elective cosmetic procedures.
While the process can, at times, be elective, a patient could also have certain conditions such as periodontal disease that make it a necessary treatment. The dentist may begin by treating a person’s gum disease with vigorous professional cleanings or a course of antibiotics, but, depending on the success of those methods, gum contouring may still be required.
Surgical Gum Contouring vs. Laser Gum Contouring
Historically, surgical methods were required to change the shape of a person’s gums. This typically involved scalpels which yielded blood and required stitches or sutures for sites where a cut was made in the gums. As one might guess, the surgical route frequently necessitated localized numbing and anesthesia to make an individual more comfortable during the procedure. Unfortunately, successful anesthesia did not help stop the gums from bleeding. After the process was completed, it was not unusual for a patient to experience pain and discomfort thanks to incisions, bleeding, and copious amounts of gauze for slowing the bleeding of the gums.
Modern dentistry is incorporating state of the art laser gum contouring for patients who prefer to skip the surgical part of the process but still want to enjoy the same positive results. Instead of scalpels, lasers are used to dispose of unwanted gum tissue which can yield less pain, discomfort, and blood loss.
How Laser Gum Contouring Works
A patient that is having laser gum contouring performed can generally expect the procedure to be done in an in-office visit. The patient’s unique situation will determine if contouring can be completed in one visit or will require additional appointments.
Before the process begins, it is common for the patient to receive a form of local anesthesia to aid in numbing the affected gums and surrounding area. This should help minimize pain and discomfort during and shortly after the procedure.
Once the numbing agents have taken effect, a dentist will use a laser to remove excess gum tissue while essentially reshaping the gumline. The laser cauterizes the gums as it works which may eliminate the need for sutures or stitches.
How long laser gum contouring takes depends heavily on the oral health of the patient, the ability to proceed without complication, and the amount of resculpting that is needed. However, many laser gum contouring appointments take only one to two hours.
While having contouring done via laser instead of a scalpel frequently helps minimize pain and discomfort, the dentist may allow the patient to take certain over the counter pain relief medications and apply an ice compress as needed for swelling.
In addition, recovery usually includes a modified diet for a few days as the gums and surrounding area may still be too tender to eat hard or crunchy foods. Many people prefer to eat soup, applesauce, mashed potatoes or yogurt until the tenderness subsides.
Patients should also expect to have a follow up appointment after the procedure so the dentist can check on the state of the gums and ensure there are no signs of infection. However, should a patient experience persistent and unyielding pain between the procedure and the follow up appointment, they should check in with their dentist to see if an interim appointment is warranted.
Benefits of Laser Gum Contouring
As mentioned above, a patient undergoing surgical gum contouring can typically expect a painful procedure and recovery that could be complicated by blood loss. Fortunately, laser gum contouring offers a number of benefits that can make the process more comfortable and appealing to patients that need the treatment. Here is a list of the benefits of laser gum contouring:
- Decreased risk of infection. There is a diminished risk of infection when cutting away part of the gums with a laser versus a scalpel because of the laser cauterizes as it cuts. Laser gum contouring could reduce the risk of infection during the procedure itself as well as during the recovery process.
- Reduced blood loss. The surgical process would typically yield blood loss that required sutures and stitches for the incision as well as large amounts of gauze. Lasers modify the gum tissue by cutting and cauterizing incisions almost simultaneously which generally minimizes blood loss directly related to the procedure.
- Minimized side effects. The cauterization involved in laser gum contouring may also yield decreased side effects such as less pain, discomfort, irritation, and swelling. This in turn typically helps speed up the recovery process and may enable a patient to return to their normal daily activities sooner.
- More rapid healing. When a surgery is performed, the complexity of the process can often warrant an extended timeline for healing. It takes time for the sutures or stitches to dissolve and for gauze to slow and eventually stop the bleeding. Then the healing can begin. However, laser gum contouring cauterization frequently allows patients to heal at an increased rate compared to the same procedure performed via surgical methods.
It is important to note that not all dentists offer laser gum contouring, so it is wise to verify that this is a service your dentist offers before making an appointment.
Whether you struggle with elongated gums, wish for a gumline that is more symmetrical when you smile, or require contouring to help with a condition like periodontal disease, talk to your dentist about this procedure and the benefits that laser gum contouring can offer.
Thanks to modern technology, laser gum contouring results in a beautiful smile with less pain and a quicker recovery time.