Laser Questions and Answers

Watch Dr. Scharf on "The Wellness Hour" being interviewed on the use of lasers to treat gum disease

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums. It starts out as plaque, a sticky film on the teeth, which then hardens to form calculus or tartar. As the tartar accumulates, it harbors bacteria, which attacks the soft tissue around the gums. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Symptoms include red, swollen gums, bleeding, bad breath, and sometimes an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

If left untreated, gingivitis becomes periodontitis. At this severe stage, bacteria destroys both the gums and the supporting bone structure. Pockets form between the teeth and gums, allowing bacteria to travel deeper. Left untreated, periodontitis eventually results in tooth loss.

What's the best way to treat periodontal disease?

Every person is different, which is why getting the opinion of a periodontist is so important. As a board certified periodontist, Dr. Scharf can talk with you about all of the pros and cons associated with your treatment options. The vast majority of people with advanced gum disease are candidates for Laser Periodontal Therapy™. This method provides a non-invasive, non-painful way to treat gum disease.

What's different about Laser Periodontal Therapy™?

Laser Periodontal Therapy™ uses a special kind of laser called the PerioLase®. The laser fiber (which is only about as wide as a couple of human hairs) is inserted between the gum tissue and your tooth, where it gently and painlessly removes diseased tissue and bacteria. Laser periodontal therapy is also called LANAP, which stands for Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure.

How many treatments will I need?

Laser Periodontal Therapy™ usually requires just two sessions and a couple of follow-up visits versus the eight to ten 1-hour sessions involved with traditional surgery. You don't have to worry about bleeding, stitches, or post-treatment infection because your gums haven't been cut or sutured. After you complete your sessions and follow up appointments with Dr. Scharf, you will meet with a hygienist every three months for periodontal maintenance. These maintenance visits are an important part of controlling gum disease on an ongoing basis.

Will you have to pull my loose teeth during laser periodontal treatment?

We have been able to save a lot of teeth that other dentists wanted to extract. There is nothing better than your own natural teeth. We can schedule a consultation for you and help you explore your options!

What is the recovery like?

The feeling of recovery is immediate due to the laser's ability to seal blood vessels, lymphatics, and nerve endings. Your tissue does need time to recover, regenerate, and heal. The good news is that after Laser Periodontal Therapy™, you can drive your car, go back to work, or do anything else you like. A soft diet for about ten days is recommended, but this is simply to speed the healing process, unlike traditional surgery, which requires a soft or liquid diet due to pain and potential infections.

You may experience some aching or mild soreness after the procedure. Dr. Scharf can prescribe an anti-inflammatory to take care of any discomfort you may experience. It is rare for a patient to need anything other than some Advil or Tylenol the evening after the procedure.

Laser Periodontal Therapy™ is expensive. Will my insurance cover it? Do you offer financing?

Laser Periodontal Therapy™ can actually be less expensive—by about 20 percent—than traditional regenerative periodontal surgery. Laser Periodontal Therapy™ does not cost more simply because it is new technology. In fact, in most cases, it costs less because the time involved is less than that of traditional surgery and also because lasers can help your own bone tissue to regenerate. We invite you to compare our fees with those at offices offering only the conventional technique. There is no special code for our laser therapy, so if your dental benefit plan will reimburse for periodontal surgery, it will reimburse for Laser Periodontal Therapy™.

Even if your insurance doesn’t cover this procedure, we offer a variety of programs to pay for your treatment. Many patients are surprised that they can have a monthly payment lower than their cable TV and cell phone bill and still treat their gum disease.

Do I need a referral from my dentist or physician to see Dr. Scharf?

No, you don't. Many of our patients chose Dr. Scharf because they heard of him through word of mouth from a friend, family member, or colleague. Other patients find out about us through the Internet. We welcome all new patients, and you don't need a referral from your general dentist or your doctor. If you do already have a dentist, Dr. Scharf will work closely with him or her as a team to help you, just as a medical specialist such as a cardiologist works with a primary care physician to provide the best care for their patient.