Gum discolouration can be the result of high melanin levels. Working at MedUni Vienna's University Clinic of Dentistry Vienna, clinical director Andreas Moritz and Hassan Ali Shokoohi-Tabrizi from the Division of Core Facility Applied Physics, Laser and CAD/CAM have recently started to use a special laser to remove the discoloured spots, once it is established that there is no other medical cause.
White teeth and pink gums are part of the aesthetic ideal and dark spots on the gums are often perceived as unpleasant and unsightly.
Hassan Ali Shokoohi-Tabrizi from the Division of Core Facility Applied Physics, Laser and CAD/CAM at MedUni Vienna's University Clinic of Dentistry explains: "Melanin, carotene and haemoglobin are the main factors that contribute to the natural colour of the gums. In people with high melanin levels, dark spots often form on the gums."
For about 20 years now, MedUni Vienna’s University Clinic of Dentistry has been researching various types of lasers and successfully using them in the treatment of patients. Laser technology has become an established part of dentistry and is primarily used in the areas of surgery, periodontology and endodontics. Laser radiation is a monochromatic, focused light and consist of a single wavelength. Empirical experiments were performed to study the behaviour of various types of tissue when exposed to lasers with different wavelengths, such as enamel, bone, dentine or gum tissue, for example. Due to the large amount of heat generated, hardly any blood is produced during soft tissue treatment and there is also a disinfection effect. The treatment is relatively painless, so that anaesthetic is rarely needed.
Alongside surgical techniques, the University Clinic of Dentistry at MedUni Vienna also uses the laser in a new and innovative treatment known as "Gingiva Bleaching". The basal layer of the gingiva is treated to depigment all the dark spots. The laser that is used is the solid-state Erbium YAG (Er:YAG) laser with a wavelength of 2940nm, which is infrared-B light. Depending on the degree of pigmentation, up to four sessions are usually required to achieve a satisfactory result. Each treatment takes approximately thirty minutes. No additional preparations are necessary prior to the laser treatment. Patients merely have to wear laser safety goggles during the entire treatment to protect their eyes. In general, the treatment is painless and only requires a local anaesthetic in exceptional cases. Sometimes people experience a slight burning sensation during the first five hours after treatment. A gap of around ten days is left between treatments, to allow the tissue to fully recover.