More About Periodontology

Periodontology, also called periodontics, is a dentistry specialization that focuses on diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases and conditions that affect the specialized tissues that support the teeth. Four different types of tissue function together in highly specialized ways, making up a structure called the periodontium. The tissues in the periodontium are the alveolar bone of the jaw; the gingival tissue, also known as the gums; the cementum, which is the calcified material that coats the roots of healthy teeth; and the fibrous, vital ligament that attaches the cementum to the bone and gums. The health of each of these structures affects and is affected by the other structures, and, when the gums become inflamed with gum disease, this can progress to the other periodontal tissues and eventually lead to loss of the teeth and degradation of the alveolar bone as it resorbs into the body. Periodontists work with patients to prevent and treat periodontal disease, and, when patients lose teeth to periodontal disease, periodontists can plan and implement many different types of dental implant treatments, including those that require bone graft surgery or complex placement design.

With proper oral hygiene and regular dental checkups, you and your dentist can keep periodontal diseases at bay. In its earlier stages, periodontal disease is called gingivitis, which is characterized by inflammation in the gingival tissue. Gingivitis is very common and is also reversible when detected early, though gingivitis in its early stages may be largely symptomless; this highlights the importance of regular dental checkups, as routine clinical examinations can reveal gingivitis when it is in its earliest stages. When symptoms do appear, there may be visible swelling and redness in the gum tissue, and the gums may bleed when the patient is brushing, flossing, or eating, though this is usually painless. Gingivitis is caused by an accumulation of bacterial plaque on the surfaces of the teeth and at the gum line, which is most often the result of poor oral hygiene; with proper hygiene and plaque removal, the tissues can be restored to health.

Without treatment, however, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which is characterized by the loss of attachment between the four structures of the periodontium and loss of the alveolar bone in the jaw. In layperson’s terms, this means that the gums start to recede as they become overwhelmed by infection, and toxins from bacteria below the gum line infect the periodontal ligament, causing the teeth to loosen. Infection proceeds, weakening the bone, which further loosens the teeth; eventually, the teeth fall out, and the bone continues to degrade in the absence of vital tooth roots stimulating its growth. There are other causes for periodontitis, and there are certain risk factors, but the most common type of periodontitis is gingivitis that has gone unchecked.

Periodontology is the dental field that specializes in the prevention of periodontal disease and in the treatment of moderate to severe periodontal disease. Periodontists use specialized classification systems to categorize periodontal diseases and chronicle the development of symptoms, which is integral to effective treatment. The primary goal of periodontology is to prolong the function and integrity of the natural teeth for as long as possible.

This may be achieved with a deep cleaning of the periodontium, which can be achieved with a scaling and root planning treatment and mechanical debridement. When the teeth cannot be saved, periodontists can design treatment options for dental implant-based restorations, which can restore the stability, vitality, and beauty of a patient’s smile and keep your smile strong for a lifetime.

Periodontist Frequently Asked Questions

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