What is a Periodontist?
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the treatment dealing with the soft tissues of the mouth and the underlying jawbone, which supports the teeth. A dentist must first graduate from an accredited dental school, which is a 4 year program after receiving a college degree, before undertaking an additional three years of study within a periodontology residency program. The primary focus of this residency training is on both surgical and non surgical management of periodontal diseases and the surgical placement of dental implants.
Conditions Treated by a Periodontist:
The periodontist is mainly concerned with preventing the onset of gum disease (periodontal diseases), diagnosing conditions affecting the gums and jawbone, and treating gingivitis, periodontitist, soft tissue problems and bone loss. Periodontal disease is a progressive, chronic condition and the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world. A recent CDC report states that 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease and periodontal disease increases with age, 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease.
The periodontist is able to treat mild, moderate and advanced gum disease by first addressing the bacterial infection, which is the primary cause of the disease, providing periodontal treatment, information and education on good oral hygiene techniques and finally, effective cleaning of the teeth and possibly, surgical therapy.
Periodontal diseases are mainly the results of infections and inflammation of the gums and the bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red, and then may bleed. In its more serious form, called chronic periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth and form pockets, supporting bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or even fall out.Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the two biggest threats to dental health,
There are a number of risk factors that increase the chance of getting periodontal disease:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives
- Underlying immune-deficiencies
- Taking medications that cause dry mouth
The most common conditions treated by the periodontist are:
Gingivitis – This is inflammation of the gums, which cause the gum to become swollen and red and may or may not be signified by pain and bleeding and is basically limited to the soft tissues around teeth.
Mild/moderate Chronic Periodontitis – When the pockets, which occur when the gum tissue has micro separations from the teeth and the these soft tissue separations are measured to be between 4-6mm with 3-4 mm of attachment loss, the disease is classified as Moderate Chronic Periodontitis (gum disease), because this is usually reflective of bone loss, which supports the teeth.
Advanced Chronic Periodontitis – When the pockets between the teeth and the soft tissues in general, exceed 6 mm in depth and have 5 mm or more attachment loss, significant bone loss occurs; causing shifting, mobility or loss of teeth.
Missing teeth – When teeth are missing as a result of advanced bone loss from periodontal disease, the periodontist can surgically place implants, which act as roots of teeth for support of abutments and crowns. These implants are anchored in the jawbone and fused to the bone. After being restored, these restorations bring functionality back to the mouth.
Treatments Performed by a Periodontist
The periodontist is able to perform a wide range of treatments to halt the progression of gum diseases, replace missing teeth and make the appearance of the smile more aesthetically pleasing and restore proper function back to the mouth.
Below are some of the treatments commonly performed by the periodontist:
Implant placement – When a tooth or several teeth are missing, the periodontist is able to create a natural-looking replacement by anchoring a fixture or fixtures to the jawbone followed by prosthetic restorations.
Osteoplasty-Ostectomy (hard tissue recontouring) – Chronic Periodontitis can be treated by surgically reshaping the bone to eliminate or reduce the pockets along side of teeth. This is one techniques of stopping the disease and stabilizing the periodontal condition.
Gingivoplasty (soft tissue recontouring) – The periodontist can remove tissues or straighten the gum line to make the teeth look more even and esthetic.
Bone grafting – This is a surgical technique used during regenerative periodiontal surgery to regenerate bone and attachment, which has been lost during the progress of the disease. This surgical technique is also used to regenerate bone for the placement of dental implant fixtures, when there is an inadequate volume of bone for implant placement. Bone grafting is an excellent way to add or “grow” bone so that an implant may be properly secured.
Deep pocket cleanings – As gingivitis and Chronic Periodontitis progress, it becomes more difficult to cleanse the pockets between the soft tissues and the teeth. The periodontist can scale and root plane the teeth (sometimes under local anesthetic) to remove debris and infection-causing bacteria, and as a result, the surrounding tissues will shrink and the pocket depths decrease.
Crown lengthening – In order to expose more of the natural tooth for a crown preparation, the periodontist can remove some of the surrounding gingival tissue and underlying bone for proper placement of a crown or restoration..
The periodontist is a highly skilled dental health professional who is able to diagnose and treat many commonly occurring soft tissue and bone problems in the oral cavity.
Be sure to ask your periodontist if you have any questions or concerns.