What is a Periodontist?
In simple terms, a periodontist is a dentist specializing in periodontology, the study of the gums, bones and other tissues that surround and support your teeth, known as the periodontium. They have a deep understanding of the diseases or conditions that may affect the periodontium, making them experts in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal diseases. Having this specialised knowledge, periodontists are also experts in the treatment of oral inflammation and in the placement, maintenance and repair of dental implants.
Although all general dentists are educated to prevent, diagnose and treat early forms of periodontal diseases, they do not have the specialized training that periodontists have for more severe cases. To become a periodontist requires an additional three years of full-time ADA accredited studies after dental school, giving them a specialized skill-set to diagnose and treat advanced forms oral health issues.
What Does a Periodontist Do?
A visit to the periodontist usually begins with a detailed review of your dental and medical history. After reviewing your medical and dental records, a periodontist will thoroughly inspect your teeth, gums, cheek and anything else that may be affecting your oral health. Once the examination is complete, they can accurately diagnose and determine a treatment plan for any periodontal disease or oral pathology that may be affecting you. Some common procedures that are performed by periodontists include:
● Root Planing and Scaling – cleaning the pockets between your teeth to remove bacteria that may cause infection.
● Debridement of Root Surface – minimizing the risk of bacterial infection of the root by removing damaged tissue on the root surface.
● Dental Implants – replacing missing or deteriorated teeth with an artificial tooth. The artificial tooth has a titanium root placed into the jawbone for osseointegration to occur.
● Gingivectomy – removing or reshaping loose or diseased gum tissue, eliminating pockets between the teeth and gums.
● Gum Grafting – repairing areas of the gum that have receded using tissue taken from your palate.
● Bone Grafting – in severe cases where the jawbone has deteriorated, bone grafting is necessary to add bone like structure to your jaw making it strong enough for implants.
● Crown Lengthening – this is a cosmetic procedure used to remove gum tissue from people who have excessive amount of it, effectively making the teeth look longer.
When Should You Visit a Periodontist?
There is no simple answer to this question, however, visiting a general dentist is definitely a good starting point for anyone who has symptoms such as bleeding gums, severe toothaches, loose teeth or any other oral health concerns. If required, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist for further examination and treatment. Some examples of patients that should be treated by a periodontist were published in a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in September 2006 titled “Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Periodontal Diseases”, and includes patients with:
● Severe chronic periodontitis
● Furcation involvement
● Vertical/angular bony defect(s)
● Aggressive periodontitis (formerly known as juvenile, early-onset, or rapidly progressive periodontitis)
● Periodontal abscess and other acute periodontal conditions
● Significant root surface exposure and/or progressive gingival recession
● Peri-implant disease
● Any patient with periodontal diseases, regardless of severity, who the referring dentist prefers not to treat
This is by no means a complete list of who should and should not be treated by a periodontist. Due to the complex nature of periodontal diseases and the underlying factors involved in their treatments, it is best to trust and follow the professional opinion of your dentist.
The contents of this article were provided by Dental Implants Clinic Toronto.