Periodontists: Gum Disease Experts

Evidence Based
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What is a Periodontist?

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.

Qualifications of Periodontists

In order to become a periodontist, these dental specialists must complete:

  • A bachelor’s degree.
  • At least four years of dental school.
  • Three years of residency training.

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.

Treatments and 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 root planing

Scaling and Root Planing

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.

ulcer sore

Dental Crown Lengthening

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.”

endosteal implant

Dental Implants

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.

oral surgery

Pocket Reduction

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.

Cosmetic Surgery

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:

  • Gummy Smiles — periodontists specialize in lengthening dental crowns and fixing uneven gum lines. During the procedure, any excess gum tissue is removed and the gum line is sculpted to ensure the teeth are covered evenly.
  • Exposed Rootsgum recession, which occurs when the gum tissues around teeth wear away, causes exposed tooth roots. This makes the teeth look longer than they are and results in a “gummy smile.” Periodontists use gum graft surgery to cover the exposed roots and protect teeth from decay.
  • Gum or Jaw Indentations — indentations can occur after tooth loss. This causes the artificial teeth to look unnatural and uneven compared to the surrounding natural teeth. Periodontists typically use ridge augmentation to restore the natural contour of the gums and jaw.
Periodontists: Gum Disease Experts 4494 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., John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013. Lara Coseo 20191002

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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.

Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.

Updated on: July 17, 2020
Alyssa Hill
Medically Reviewed: October 2, 2019
Photo of Lara Coseo
Lara Coseo