Bacterial Infections Can Halt Oral Surgery


CHICAGO -- Reality television has become a popular form of primetime entertainment. The latest show, "Extreme Makeover," helps people enhance their features from head-to-toe through plastic surgery. However, if a patient already has a bacterial infection in the body or mouth, the surgical procedure may have to be postponed.

On one episode, the patient was unable to proceed with breast augmentation because of a bacterial infection in her mouth known as periodontal disease. The periodontist and plastic surgeon were concerned that the bacteria in the patient's mouth may affect the outcome of her plastic surgery.

"Periodontitis is a bacterial infection of the gums, bone and periodontal ligament. The bacteria from periodontitis can enter the blood stream and cause systemic complications," said Gordon Douglass, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "The bacteria in the bloodstream can compromise recovery from any surgery, but is particularly problematic for patients receiving implants, transplants or replacements of body parts since it may cause these procedures to fail. Before undergoing surgery, patients should have a periodontal examination to ensure that they don't have bacteria in their mouth that may affect their recovery."

Now that Americans are living longer, cosmetic surgery has become more popular. Oral plastic surgery has also felt this trend as it has experienced a significant shift toward cosmetic-related surgery to help improve the smile. Excessive gum tissue can create a "gummy" smile, but the periodontist can perform a crown lengthening procedure to remove excess gum tissue and expose an ideal smile. Conversely, a person's teeth may appear too long if their gums have receded or shrunk. This can often be corrected with soft tissue graft procedures. Dental implants, an artificial tooth root placed into the jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge, can be used to replace missing teeth.

"These procedures improve the smile, and are functional as well," said Douglass. "A soft tissue graft can reduce further recession and bone loss, and in some cases reduce tooth sensitivity. Crown lengthening uncovers the tooth or teeth and improves its function. After the procedure, my patients can't stop smiling, and it's very rewarding when a patient says that periodontal plastic surgery changed their life by making them look and feel younger."

For a free brochure titled, "Periodontal Diseases: What You Need to Know and Periodontal Surgery: What Can I Expect?" use the AAP's online request form or toll-free number 800-FLOSS-EM. You may also visit the AAP web site at for a referral to a periodontist in your area.

The American Academy of Periodontology was established in 1914 and focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants.

Source: American Academy of Periodontology

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