What is a periodontist?

What is a periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are also experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including additional years of education beyond dental school. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.
Periodontists often treat more problematic periodontal cases, such as those with severe gum disease or a complex medical history.  Periodontists offer a wide range of treatments, such as scaling and root planing(in which the infected surface of the root is cleaned) or root surface debridement (in which damaged tissue is removed).  They can also treat patients with severe gum problems using a range of surgical procedures. In addition, periodontists are specially trained in the placement, maintenance, and repair of dental implants.

What can I expect  the first time I visit a periodontist?


During the first visit, the periodontist will review  your  complete medical and dental history with you.  It is extremely important for the periodontist  to know if any medications are being taken or if the patient is being treated for any condition that can affect periodontal care, such as heart disease, diabetes, or pregnancy.
You will be given a complete oral and periodontal exam. The periodontist examines the gums, checks to see if there is any gum line recession, assesses how the teeth fit together when biting, and checks the teeth to see if  any are loose.  The periodontist will also take a small measuring instrument called a probe and place it between the teeth and gums to determine the depth of those spaces, known as periodontal pockets; this helps the periodontist  assess the health of the gums.  X-rays may also be taken to observe the health of the bone below the gum line.

Who should see a periodontist?

Who should see a periodontist?

Some patients’ periodontal needs can be managed by the general dentist. However, as more and more patients are exhibiting signs of periodontal disease, coupled with research that suggests a relationship between  periodontal disease and other chronic diseases of aging, periodontal treatment may necessitate a greater understanding and increased level of expertise by a trained specialist.  Patients who present with moderate or severe levels of periodontal disease, or patients with more complex cases, will be best managed by a partnership between the dentist and periodontist.

What is periodontal disease?


The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that attacks and can destroy the gums and the bone that support the teeth in your mouth. Plaque is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria and saliva. If plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). When plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone. Periodontal disease is characterized by red, swollen and bleeding gums.  Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.

What is the difference between plaque and calculus?


Plaque is the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth.  Bacteria live in plaque and secrete acids that cause tooth decay and irritate gum tissue.  This irritation causes an inflammatory reaction by your body that can eventually lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease.  If plaque is not removed regularly by tooth brushing and flossing, it hardens to create calculus (also known as tartar).

Calculus cannot be removed with a toothbrush; only a dental professional can remove it during an oral cleaning.  To keep plaque and calculus under control, it is essential to brush your teeth twice every day, floss at least once every day, and see your dental professional for regular examinations and cleanings.

What are common signs and symptoms of periodontal disease?


Four out of five people have periodontal disease and unfortunately are not aware they have it!!
Periodontal disease is often silent, meaning symptoms- particularly pain- may not appear until an advanced stage of the disease. Sign and symptoms that you should be aware of include:
-          Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
-          Bleeding while brushing, flossing or when eating certain foods
-          Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
-          Loose or separating teeth
-          Pus between your gums and teeth
-          Sores in your mouth
-          Persistent bad breath
-          A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
-          A change in the fit of partial dentures

If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your dentist or periodontist right away!

Can children be at risk for developing periodontal disease?


Periodontal disease is rarely found in children, and only sometimes found in adolescents. However, children should still learn the importance of keeping their teeth and gums healthy to prevent periodontal disease in the future.  Children should   brush their teeth twice a day and learn how to floss properly- if children learn how to floss at an early age, they will be more likely to make it a lifetime habit.  These two simple acts will help protect their teeth and gums from periodontal disease.
As a parent, you should also be aware of the warning signs of periodontal disease, which include red, swollen, bleeding gums or bad breath that won’t go away.  If your child develops any of these symptoms, tell your dental professional right away.  It’s also a good idea   to ensure your dental professional knows  your complete family history, as genetics can play an important role in the early development of some forms of periodontal disease.

Who should treat my periodontal disease: my general dentist or a periodontist?

Who should treat my periodontal disease: my general dentist or a periodontist?

Instead of leaving your treatment to one dental professional, you should consider having both your general dentist and a periodontist be actively involved in the diagnosis and treatment of your periodontal disease. This team approach will help your general dentist (who is familiar with your dental and medical history) and your periodontist (who has extensive experience treating periodontal disease) collaborate to tailor a treatment plan that works best for your individual case.

Is periodontal disease contagious?


Research has shown that periodontal disease is caused by the inflammatory reaction to bacteria under the gums, so periodontal disease technically may not be contagious. However, the bacteria that cause the inflammatory reaction can be spread through saliva. This means that if one of your family members has periodontal disease, it is a good idea to avoid contact with their saliva by not sharing eating utensils or oral health equipment. If you notice that your spouse or a family member has the warning signs of a possible periodontal problem (bleeding, red swollen gums, or bad breath) you may want to suggest that they see the periodontist for an exam.  It may help to protect the oral health of everyone in the family.

Is there a relationship between tobacco use and periodontal disease?

Is there a relationship between tobacco use and periodontal disease?

Studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. Smokers are much more likely than non-smokers to have calculus form on their teeth, have deeper pockets between the teeth and gums and lose more of the bone and tissue that support the teeth. Patients who are smokers may not respond as well to periodontal treatment. Smokers also have a high risk for oral cancer.

What can I do at home to prevent periodontal disease?

What can I do at home to prevent periodontal disease?

Luckily, periodontal disease can be preventable. The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to take good care of your teeth and gums at home. This includes brushing your teeth after every meal and before bedtime, flossing at least once each day, and seeing your dentist or periodontist for regular exams and cleanings.

Daily cleaning will help keep plaque and calculus formation to a minimum, but it won’t completely prevent it. A professional cleaning at least twice a year is necessary to remove calculus from places your toothbrush and floss may have missed.

I am over age 55. Does this mean I am more likely to get periodontal disease?


The main cause of periodontal (gum) disease is plaque, but other factors affect the health of your gums.

With respect to age, studies indicate that older people have the highest rates of periodontal disease. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that over 70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis. Additional risk factors may include smoking/tobacco use, genetics, stress, medications, clenching or grinding your teeth, other systemic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc) , poor nutrition and obesity. 

Know your risk. If you are at increased risk, be sure to talk to your dental professional.

What are the consequences of missing teeth?

What are the consequences of missing teeth?

There are actually several negative consequences of missing some or all of your teeth. First, missing teeth will affect the esthetics of your face. Not only will your smile be affected by the gaps from missing teeth, but if you’re missing too many teeth, the skin around your mouth will not be supported properly and will start to sag, making you appear older than you are. Additionally, missing teeth will make it more difficult to chew your food properly and may even affect the way you speak. Finally, missing even one tooth may have emotional consequences; many people feel less confident about their smile when they are missing teeth. If you are currently missing any of your teeth, there are different options you may consider to replace them including replacement with dental implants. 

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