Most people receive regular dental care from a general dentist. For the average person, general dentistry may be all you need to keep your teeth and mouth healthy. But there are dental specialists who focus on other more specific areas of dentistry to treat patients who have oral health needs that surpass what a general dentist can address. One such specialist is a periodontist.
What is a periodontist and when should you see one? Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Periodontist?
A periodontist is a dental specialist who diagnoses and treats conditions affecting the support structures for the teeth, primarily the gums. Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is one of the most common problems periodontists treat. It occurs when plaque bacteria infects the gum tissue. A periodontist may perform a variety of procedures to treat gum disease, prevent it from returning, and repair the resulting damage.
What’s the Difference Between a Dentist and a Periodontist?
General dentists focus primarily on the health of the teeth and may address gum disease in the early stages, such as gingivitis. Your general dentist may refer you to a periodontist if you have severe gum disease that doesn’t improve with basic periodontal treatment, or if you have specific conditions that contribute to recurring gum disease.
Signs You Need to See a Periodontist
If you notice any of the following, it may be time to see a periodontist:
- Red gums. Healthy gums are varying shades of pink. Infected gums turn red, indicating that gum disease may be present.
- Bleeding gums. As gum disease progresses it can cause your gums to bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. If you notice blood when you spit into the sink after brushing, you may have gum disease.
- Swollen gum tissue. Gum disease also causes your gum tissue to swell up. An abscess may form on your gums that looks like a pimple.
- Tender or sore gums. The infection can cause inflammation that makes your gums tender or sore when you brush, floss, or eat.
- Bad breath. The bacteria that causes gum disease can give you chronic bad breath that lasts for days, weeks, or even months if you don’t seek treatment.
- Receding gums. Gum disease can cause the gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, which is referred to as receding gums.
- Sensitive teeth. As the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth it exposes the roots of the teeth, which can lead to sensitivity to cold and heat.
- Loose teeth. If the gum tissue recedes far enough it can cause the teeth to become loose and even fall out.
What Services Do Periodontists Provide?
Most periodontists provide the following services:
- Scaling and root planing. Scaling is the process of removing hardened plaque that has developed on the teeth below the gum line. Root planing smooths the surface of the roots to eliminate spaces under the gum tissue where plaque tends to gather. This is the primary treatment for gum disease.
- Crown lengthening. Some people have more gum tissue covering their teeth than others, which can increase the risk of gum disease. Crown lengthening removes the excess gum tissue to expose more tooth material.
- Gum grafting. If gum disease has caused the gums to recede, gum grafting can be done to replace the lost gum tissue in order to provide better support for the teeth.
- Bone grafting. Gum disease can cause damage to the jaw bone. A bone graft procedure involves placing a bone fragment beneath the gums to strengthen the bone and encourage regeneration.
- Ridge preservation. If a tooth is extracted, ridge preservation is used to preserve the jaw bone in preparation for a dental implant.
- Dental implants. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is surgically placed in the jaw. An artificial crown can be attached to replace a single tooth, or multiple implants can support a bridge or dentures.
- Periodontal maintenance. After gum disease is treated, periodontal maintenance involves regular cleanings to keep it from recurring.
Hudson Valley Periodontics and Implantology is a leading provider of periodontics in Hudson Valley and Bardonia, New York. Our doctors and dental team are highly qualified and experienced in the field of periodontology.