Updated on February 9, 2024
4 min read

What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and a Periodontist?

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What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and a Periodontist?

Periodontists are dentists who specialize in gum disease and dental implants. So while not all dentists are periodontists, all periodontists are dentists.

However, unlike a general dentist, a periodontist typically offers a more limited range of procedures that require additional expertise. For example, you likely wouldn’t visit a periodontist for a routine cleaning or a root canal.

The two main specialties of periodontists are:

  • Preventing, diagnosing, and treating gum disease (periodontal disease)
  • Placing dental implants

These areas of expertise require extensive knowledge of the hard and soft tissues that support your teeth (known as the periodontium). They also require advanced training in surgical techniques that general dentists typically don’t receive.

Periodontists vs. General Dentists

The key differences between periodontists and general dentists include:

1. Daily Job Responsibilities/Specialization

General dentists offer a wide range of services. They manage routine dental checkups and teeth cleanings, provide oral health education, and take X-rays. They can also perform fillings, root canals, and minor surgical procedures.

Periodontists, on the other hand, are specialists. Like endodontists or oral surgeons, they focus on a more specific range of problems and procedures. They perform more periodontal services and implant procedures than general dentists do.

Your general dentist may be able to provide some services related to gum disease or place dental implants. However, they will likely refer you to a periodontist for more complex procedures.

Similarly, some periodontists provide routine or general services such as checkups and fillings. But in general, their focus is on issues related to gum disease and implants.

2. Education Level/Credentials

While dentists can offer some gum services, they’d need further training and dental education to become a periodontist.

A general dentist must earn an undergraduate degree and a dental degree. A periodontist does the same but needs two to three years of additional training. Like oral surgeons, they have to be familiar with surgical techniques such as implant placement.

3. Salary

Since periodontists are more specialized, they often have higher salaries than general dentists. Treatments are also more expensive in most cases.

General dentists make an average of $174,000 a year, while periodontists make an average of $244,000 yearly.

When Should I See a Periodontist?

For many people, the first time they visit a periodontist is after being given a referral. Your regular dentist may notice that you have signs of gum disease and refer you to a periodontist for more specialized treatment. 

Alternatively, you may need a dental implant placed, and your general dentist doesn’t have the necessary training, equipment, or time. This is another reason they may refer you to a periodontist (or an oral surgeon).

Some reasons you may need to see a periodontist include:

  • You have signs of moderate to severe periodontal disease, including swollen or bleeding gums, loose teeth, or changes in your bite
  • You have a family history of gum disease, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, or other conditions
  • You have more complex implant dentistry needs, such as a sinus lift or multiple implants

What Procedures Does a Periodontist Perform?

Common procedures offered by periodontists include:

Periodontists can also extract teeth if needed for gum disease treatment. Some periodontists even offer services that general dentists provide, such as fillings or root canals.

Like other doctors and dentists, periodontists can prescribe medication and make referrals to other specialists.

Periodontists vs. Other Specialists

Here are some of the ways periodontists differ from other dental specialists:

Periodontists vs. Endodontists

Endodontists are dental professionals who specialize in issues related to tooth pulp and tooth roots. They’re experts in root canal treatment.

Like periodontists, endodontists undergo an additional 2 to 3 years of training after dental school. But unlike periodontists, they don’t generally manage issues involving the gums or dental implants.

Periodontists vs. Oral Surgeons

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons have a lot in common with periodontists. They can place dental implants and perform regenerative procedures such as bone and gum grafts. They can also perform cosmetic procedures such as gum lifts.

However, oral surgeons don’t focus on gum disease like periodontists. They also perform procedures that periodontists generally don’t, such as surgical tooth extractions and corrective jaw surgery.

Summary

Periodontists are experts in the treatment of gum disease as well as the placement of dental implants. They’re licensed dentists who undergo additional clinical training to become periodontal specialists.

If you have signs of gum disease, your general dentist may refer you to a periodontist for additional treatment. They can perform more complex procedures for people with gum disease.

You may also see a periodontist to have dental implants placed. Periodontists can perform multi-implant procedures as well as sinus lifts and bone grafts.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. What is a Periodontist?” American Academy of Periodontology.
  2. Hasan, A., and R.M. Palmer. “A clinical guide to periodontology: Pathology of periodontal disease.” British Dental Journal, 2014.
  3. Kwon, TaeHyun, et al. “Current Concepts in the Management of Periodontitis.” International Dental Journal, 2021.
  4. Dahlen, Gunnar, et al. “Current concepts and an alternative perspective on periodontal disease.” BMC Oral Health, 2020.
  5. Könönen, Eija, et al. “Periodontitis: A Multifaceted Disease of Tooth-Supporting Tissues.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2019.
  6. Tachalov, V.V., et al. “Making a complex dental care tailored to the person: population health in focus of predictive, preventive and personalized (3P) medical approach.” EPMA Journal, 2021.
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