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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 (also known as PD or periodontitis — an advanced form of gingivitis). PD is a serious gum infection that severely damages a patient’s gums and jawbone.
Periodontists 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.
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The main difference is that dentists provide dental care for your teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth, whereas a periodontist treats your soft tissues, gums, and the bones that support your teeth.
In order to become a periodontist, these dental specialists must complete several years of education including:
In addition, periodontists must stay up-to-date on developments in the field of dental health in order to get recertified. They are also highly trained in performing cosmetic dental services.
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 and stop gingivitis before it turns into advanced gum disease.
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 treatment option 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:
In simple terms, dentists treat teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth, whereas a periodontist treats your gums, and the bones that support your teeth.
If your dentist finds symptoms of gingivitis or periodontal disease during a dental visit they will recommend a consultation with a periodontist. Symptoms of gum disease include bad breath, red or swollen gums, bleeding gums during flossing, painful chewing, loose teeth, and receding gums.
A periodontist treats the soft tissue, gums, and bone structures that make up your mouth.
Gum disease treatments have a huge range of costs, from $500 to $10,000.
Yes, a periodontist can pull teeth as well as treat the damaged gum and bone tissue around the tooth.
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.