What is a Periodontist

The periodontium is the set of specialized structures that support the teeth, and a periodontist is a dental specialist who can diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases that affect the periodontium. Periodontal disease adversely affects the bone and gum tissue that support the teeth, causing inflammation that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Periodontists also specialize in the placement of dental implants, which can help restore the health of the jaw while also supporting natural-looking, secure dental prosthetics. To become a periodontist, dentists must attend an additional three years of school after finishing dental school, and periodontists maintain their education throughout their career, learning about new implant technologies and material innovations, for example.

Some general dentists are trained to treat mild periodontal disease, and some general dentists may also be able to perform simple dental implant procedures. When periodontal disease is advanced, however, or when dental implant procedures require more comprehensive treatment strategies, most general dentists refer their patients to a periodontist. Periodontists also provide specialized dental services, including scaling and root planning, a procedure that cleans infection from the surface of a tooth’s root, and root surface debridement, which removes damaged tissue from the tooth’s root, and they treat oral inflammation and can also perform cosmetic periodontal procedures.

A periodontal exam requires a full medical and dental history, and all medications taken, or medical conditions must be discussed, as certain medical conditions and medications can affect periodontal health or healing; for example, pregnancy and diabetes can both affect the health of the gum tissue, for very different reasons, and your periodontist can work with you to reduce risk and discuss strategies for oral health as well as systemic health. Your periodontist will conduct an examination of your gum tissue, checking for recession, and assessing the alignment of your bite; then, your periodontist will use a specialized measurement tool to probe the areas between the teeth and the gums, measuring the depths of these pockets. If necessary, x-rays may also be taken during a periodontal examination, to determine the health of the bone beneath the gums.

General dentists are well-practiced in the treatment of periodontal disease when it is diagnosed and treated early, and periodic dental checkups are a crucial part of early detection; when treated early, periodontal disease is reversible, and the gums can be restored to health. Once periodontal disease has become more advanced, however, it cannot be reversed and requires specialized treatment, so your dentist will probably refer you to a periodontist if you have moderate to severe periodontal disease.

You may also need more specialized periodontal treatment if you have a family history of diabetes, osteoporosis, or certain other conditions, and many dentists recommend that smokers see a periodontist due the increased risk of periodontal disease among people who smoke. Finally, if you are seeking dental implants, working with a periodontist can help you achieve a permanent, secure, and attractive solution to one or more missing teeth, even if you need multiple or complex implants or have limited amounts of healthy bone to support implants. If you get a referral to a periodontist, rest assured that you’re working with an expert who can provide you with the best care possible.

First Visit to a Periodontist

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