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What is the Difference Between a Dentist and a Periodontist?

While a dentist is not a periodontist, a periodontist is a dentist.

So what is the difference between a dentist and a periodontist? Both dental professionals work in the oral healthcare industry but a periodontist offers less dental care services than a dentist.

TreatmentCost

Basically, a periodontist is a dental specialist who is an expert in preventing, diagnosing, and treating periodontal disease and dental implant placements.

While a dentist can offer some gum services, they’d need to undergo specific training and education beyond dental school to become a periodontist. A dentist must earn an undergraduate and dental degree. A periodontist has to receive two to three additional years of periodontics training beyond that. They train to gain experience in non-surgical and surgical periodontal procedures, as well as dental implant placements.


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Periodontics is just one of 10 specialty branches of dentistry that have been approved and adopted by the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards:

  1. Periodontics
  2. Dental Anesthesiology
  3. Dental Public Health
  4. Endodontics
  5. Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  6. Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  7. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  8. Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  9. Pediatric Dentistry
  10. Prosthodontics

When Should I See a Periodontist?

You should see a periodontist for any oral health services related to the soft tissue supporting your teeth and jawbone. You may know it’s time for a dental visit to the periodontist if you have red, inflamed, tender, or receding gums, loose teeth, or bad breath that won’t go away. Your general dentist may not be able to offer you the services you need and, therefore, they may recommend that you visit a periodontist for periodontal care instead.

A periodontist may perform the following procedures:

  • Non-surgical and surgical gum disease treatments
  • Periodontal therapy
  • Scaling and root planing (cleaning of infected root surfaces)
  • Root surface debridement (removal of damaged tissue)
  • Regenerative procedures (rebuilding lost bone and tissue)
  • Placement of dental implants
  • Dental implant tightening
  • Dental implant cleaning
  • Medication prescriptions

When Should I See a General Dentist?

Most oral healthcare professionals recommend that you visit a general dentist or an oral hygienist for checkups about once every six months. This is to maintain good oral hygiene and to prevent diseases. You may choose to visit a dentist more often, however, if you need certain treatments for specific oral health issues.

A general dentist may perform the following treatments:

  • General teeth cleaning
  • Deep cleanings
  • X-rays
  • Preventive dental treatments
  • Cavity fillings
  • Dental crowns
  • Root Canals
  • Cosmetic dental treatments
  • Orthodontics
  • Teeth whitening
  • Some tooth extractions
  • Some non-surgical and surgical periodontal treatments

Common Questions

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about periodontists.

Can a periodontist do fillings?

Yes, a periodontist can do fillings among other treatment options. Periodontists may perform minor restorations on the teeth as needed to support healthy attachment of bone and gums to the teeth. More commonly, your general dentist and periodontist will work together to determine which restorations are necessary to support great gum health.  

Does a periodontist pull teeth?

Yes, a periodontist can pull teeth. Because a periodontist has advanced experience in treating the gums and bone of your mouth, many dental patients choose to see a periodontist (over a general dentist) for tooth extractions.

What is the difference between a periodontist and an oral surgeon?

The main difference between a periodontist and an oral surgeon is that a periodontist focuses on gum and bone health, while an oral surgeon provides an array of surgical procedures on the mouth, jaw, and face.

Resources

The Difference Between a Dentist and Periodontist, http://www.periodontalhealthcenter.com/Blog/The-Difference-Between-a-Dentist-and-Periodontist/

Implant Periodontic Specialists · published December 23, et al. “Periodontist vs. Dentist (What's the Difference?): Periodontist Bellevue WA.” Implant & Periodontic Specialists, 13 July 2020, www.implantandperiodonticspecialists.com/blog/periodontist-vs-dentist/

“Periodontics.” Mouth Healthy TM, www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/p/periodoncia

“Periodontist And Oral Surgeon Differences.” Les Parodontistes, 26 Sept. 2017, lesparodontistes.com/en/what-is-the-difference-between-a-periodontist-and-an-oral-surgeon/.

Specialty Definitions, www.ada.org/en/ncrdscb/dental-specialties/specialty-definitions

“When Should You See a Periodontist?” IMPLANT PERIO CENTER, 17 Aug. 2018, www.implantperiocenter.com/when-should-you-see-a-periodontist/.

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Updated on: December 15, 2020
Author
AnnaMarie Houlis
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Dr. Lara Coseo
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