A periodontist specializes in diagnosing and treating gum disease – a skill set that requires advanced training after dental school.
This further education in dentistry gives periodontal specialists a particularly deep insight into how the condition of the gums can impact overall health.
Gum disease has been associated with several other medical conditions, including:
- Heart disease.
- Lung infections.
Periodontists also keep up to speed with ongoing developments in periodontal techniques. For instance, one major advance in periodontal treatment in recent years has seen the introduction of procedures to regenerate tissue, rather than just repairing the damage.
Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss among adults, and periodontists are also surgical experts in the placement of dental implants to anchor artificial teeth.
How a Periodontist Diagnoses Gum Disease
Periodontists are so called because the medical term for gum disease is periodontitis –taken from the Greek for “inflammation around a tooth”.
The first phase of periodontal disease is gingivitis – inflammation of the gums (or gingiva). You may not realize you have gingivitis, because the early stages can be pain-free.
Without diagnosis to enable treatment, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis and advanced periodontitis – chronic diseases that can cause tooth and jaw bone loss. The infection can also spread to other parts of your body.
Periodontists diagnosis gum problems by:
- Looking for signs of gum recession by measuring the depth of spaces between the gums and teeth.
- Assessing the patient’s bite function.
- Checking for loose teeth.
- Taking X-rays to determine the health of bone beneath the gum line.
A periodontist will also take into consideration any factors that put a patient at greater risk of gum disease, such as aging and smoking.
How a Periodontist Treats Gum Disease
A periodontist can halt the progression of gum disease with a procedure called scaling – deep cleaning (dental prophylaxis). While routine dental cleaning is concerned with the surface of teeth, scaling goes beneath the gum line to remove plaque and tartar.
Scaling is typically followed by root planing – smoothing (planing) the root surface of teeth so healing gum tissue and reattach to it properly. Clean and smooth tooth root surfaces also help to prevent further bacterial attack.
Antibiotic medication can be placed under the gum line to kill bacteria that may have survived scaling and root planing. Antibacterial pills can also be prescribed in conjunction with gum disease treatments.
If periodontal disease has become advanced, a periodontist may need to draw on their surgical skills to carry out:
- Pocket reduction surgery (also known as gingival flap surgery) to fold back gum tissue and remove underlying bacteria.
- Crown lengthening to remove bone or gum tissue.
- Sinus augmentation to increase bone mass in the upper jaw.
- Bone grafts.
- Gum grafts.
Periodontists and Dental Implants
Surgery will also be required if a patient opts for dental implants to replace lost teeth, rather than traditional dentures or bridges.
If you choose a periodontist to replace your missing teeth with dental implants, you’ll know you’re in extremely capable hands, with quality materials backed by a high level of surgical expertise.
The specialist training that periodontists undergo ensures they have in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of the connective tissue and bone that surround and support teeth – imperative for safe and successful dental implant surgery.
What Makes a Good Periodontist?
Because gum disease is a complex condition that can also damage your general health in unpredictable ways, periodontists receive comprehensive training focused on the deep links between gum health and overall well-being. A good periodontist will never lose sight of this mouth-body connection.
Neither will they ever stop learning, no matter how knowledgeable they are. Experienced periodontists – like Kitchener dentist Sorin Boeriu, for example – make a point of attending seminars and courses to continue honing their education and expertise. The best periodontists also keep up to date with the latest developments in dental implant technology.
While clinical, surgical and technical skills are essential for a periodontist, soft skills – the personal attributes that enable a compassionate, empathetic approach to periodontal treatment – are also important. A good periodontist will treat patients with the respect they deserve and spend time getting to know them.
The best periodontal specialists also realize there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to gum problems, and they will draw up a treatment plan specifically for the patient’s individual needs.
A periodontist focused on preventative care will also be happy to offer you advice on oral hygiene and how a nutritious, balanced diet can help to keep your gums healthy.