Periodontists specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum diseases and the surrounding tissues of teeth. They also maintain the health, aesthetics, and function of these tissues and structures. The most common disease periodontists treat is periodontal disease (PD). PD is a serious gum infection that severely damages a patient’s gums and jawbone.
In addition, they are experts in the placement of dental implants, also known as artificial tooth roots. Implants replace missing or extracted natural teeth due to periodontal disease, injury, or tooth decay.
In order to become a periodontist, these dental specialists must complete:
In addition, periodontists must stay up-to-date on developments in the field in order to get recertified. They are also highly trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.
Periodontists spend most of their time diagnosing, treating, and restoring mouths affected by periodontal diseases.
They specialize in scaling and root planing, dental crown lengthening, gum grafts, dental implant placement, pocket reduction, and cosmetic surgeries:
Scaling and root planing removes plaque and calculus (tartar) from a patient’s teeth. During the procedure, a periodontist carefully cleans the tooth’s root to remove plaque and tartar from deep periodontal pockets. They may also clean under the gums (subgingival) if the bacteria has spread to less visible parts of the mouth. Then they smooth the roots to remove any remaining toxins and bacteria.
Crown lengthening restores decayed teeth or teeth broken below the gum line. When teeth cannot be restored with dental crowns or dental bridges, crown lengthening is the next option. During the procedure, a periodontist reshapes gum tissue to expose more of the natural tooth. Lengthening restores a “gummy smile.”
When tooth loss occurs due to periodontal disease, dental implants commonly replace the missing tooth. An implant, also known as an artificial tooth root, is similar in shape to a screw. A periodontist surgically inserts the implant into the patient’s jawbone, which bonds with the natural bone. Periodontists are experts in the diagnosis, treatment, and placement of implants due to severe gum diseases.
Pocket reduction surgery, also referred to as flap surgery, removes bacteria living under the gums. During the procedure, a periodontist uses small instruments to lift the gums back and remove tartar. This surgery also eliminates some of the space between the tooth and gums, which reduces the chance of further damage caused by periodontal disease.
In addition to performing surgical procedures to restore teeth and gums due to severe gum diseases, periodontists also specialize in cosmetic procedures. These treatments help restore a patient’s natural smile:
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Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. NIH Publication, 2013. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/periodontal-disease_0.pdf
Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.