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Periodontists are dentists who specialize in treating the periodontium, the group of tissues surrounding and supporting your teeth. These include your gums and the surrounding bone.
The most common disease periodontists treat is periodontal disease (also known as PD or periodontitis — an advanced form of gum disease). As PD progresses, it can cause severe bone tissue damage and, eventually, tooth loss.
Periodontists are also 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.
You might see a periodontist if you have symptoms of advancing PD, such as:
Other reasons you might see a periodontist include:
There are several types of dentists that specialize in different aspects of oral and dental health. Periodontists are dentists with expertise in treating the gums and other structures that support your teeth.
However, when people use the word dentist, they’re likely referring to general dentists. These are the dentists you see for regular checkups and cleanings. General dentists also perform many common dental procedures, such as:
Sometimes, people need treatment that general dentists don’t offer. If you need treatment from a specialist (such as a periodontist or an oral surgeon), your general dentist may refer you to one.
Periodontists provide treatments like:
These treatments may overlap with what your general dentist or another specialist offers. For example, both periodontists and oral surgeons can offer dental implants.
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 to get recertified. They are also highly trained in performing cosmetic procedures.
Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, states, “general dentists often refer patients to periodontists for complex procedures since they have at least 3 years of advanced training in periodontal dentistry.”
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Here are the most common procedures a periodontist might perform:
Scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning of the teeth and gums. It’s more challenging than a routine oral cleaning, so your general dentist may send you to a periodontist.
This procedure is a common treatment for gum disease because it disrupts the tartar and oral bacteria that inflame the gums. It can help prevent mild gum disease (gingivitis) from progressing to more advanced PD.
Dental implants are a permanent solution for missing teeth. An implant, also known as an artificial tooth root, is similar in shape to a screw. A crown is fitted on the end of the implant to serve as a replacement tooth.
An implant can be placed by a general dentist, a periodontist, or an oral surgeon. Usually made from titanium, it forms a bond with the surrounding bone, providing strong support for the new crown.
Implant surgery requires several months to fully heal and comes with some risks. But unlike dentures or bridges, dental implants are integrated into your jawbone and can last a lifetime.
Sometimes, dental crowns or fillings can’t be placed because there’s not enough tooth structure to support the restoration. Crown lengthening involves reducing some of the surrounding bone so that more tooth structure is exposed and there is enough “biological width.” This allows the crown to fit properly.
Sometimes gum tissue is reduced for cosmetic reasons, which is often referred to as gum contouring (see below).
Gum grafting refers to the placement of new tissue over areas where the gumline has receded. You may be given a gum graft if you have exposed tooth roots. The new tissue will protect and support them.
The tissue for a gum graft may come from the roof of your mouth or from an area of your gums that is already in good shape.
Pocket reduction surgery, also called gum flap surgery, is a treatment for periodontitis. It addresses the deep spaces between the teeth and gums (periodontal pockets) where tartar and bacteria can accumulate.
Gum tissue is lifted away from the teeth, tartar and infected tissue are removed, and the healthy tissue is reattached.
A gingivectomy, also known as gum contouring, is usually a cosmetic procedure. Like crown lengthening, it reduces gum tissue to expose more of the surface of the teeth.
This procedure is intended to address a “gummy smile.”
These procedures often go together:
A periodontist is a dentist who focuses on the gums, bones, and other tissues surrounding the teeth.
General dentists can perform some periodontal treatments. But for more challenging procedures, you may be referred to a periodontist.
You might see a periodontist if you need specialized treatment for gum disease or a dental implant. Periodontists can also provide cosmetic improvements to the shape of your gums.
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