What Does A Periodontist Do?
While general dentists care for the health of your teeth and gums, advanced periodontal disease or other gum- and structure-related issues may require the attention of a periodontist. John C. Hall, DDS, MS and Diplomate American Board of Periodontics of Traverse City, MI, offers answers about periodontists and when it’s time to address your gum disease with a specialist. Here is more information on specialists known as periodontists.
What are some symptoms that require a periodontist's attention rather than a general dentist?
It’s important to maintain a regular schedule of visits to your general dentist for good oral health. Your dentist can recognize problems and either treat them or recommend a specialist.
Says Hall, “Although a general dentist is trained to recognize all of the symptoms associated with periodontitis, there are some problems that may require the expertise of a periodontist.”
• Bleeding gums
• Loose teeth
• Discomfort associated with the gums
• Persistent bad breath
Unfortunately, Hall continues, “gum disease is often symptom-free until late in the disease process.” That’s why regular checkups are so vital to your gum health. Your dentist is skilled at recognizing the signs and symptoms of gum disease and can send you to a specialist at the first sign of a more complicated problem.
As with any disorder or disease, early detection results in sooner intervention and more successful treatments.
What specific conditions does a periodontist specialize in?
According to Hall, a periodontist is trained to treat early-to-advanced gum disease. These specialists are also skilled in the placement of dental implants, advanced bone and tissue graft procedures, various cosmetic periodontal surgeries, oral pathology, surgery that is done during the process of restorative dentistry and gingival grafting to treat gum recession.
Do most people require a periodontist's care?
Hall reiterates, “Although periodontal disease, either in the form of pocketing or gum recession, is present in most adults, most of these problems can be handled by the general dentist.” It’s usually when gum disease has advanced or a particularly complicated issue arises that a periodontist is recommended.
How do I know that my dentist is checking for periodontal problems?
There are a number of things your dentist should be evaluating when it comes to your gums. Hall specifies the types of analytical tests your general dentist should perform for optimal periodontal health: “An adult patient should expect to receive diagnostic services from their general dentist, including a full-mouth set of x-rays (18-20 films) every five years. They should also have a periodontal chart done once a year; this usually involves probing measurements and recording of six sites around every tooth in the mouth.”
When should I ask my dentist to recommend a periodontist?
Hall lists pocketing, significant gum recession, missing teeth or teeth that will need to be extracted and replaced with dental implants as reasons your dentist may want you to see a specialist. If you notice any of these issues or other concerns between appointments, contact your dentist for an evaluation and possible referral.
My dentist says he can take care of my gum disease, but I want a second opinion. Can I make an appointment to see a periodontist?
“You certainly can,” responds Hall. “You can find a periodontist in your area at the American Academy of Periodontology's website. You may also want to ask friends and family about periodontists they are familiar with.”
Your dentist should provide a referral to a specialist at your request. Since your chosen periodontist will be reporting his findings and your treatment and progress to your dentist, it’s great if they already have an established working relationship. Knowing you’re in the care of a reputable, skilled specialist can alleviate many of your fears. If you have questions, you should be comfortable asking them of any dental or health professional during a consultation prior to a procedure.
Will I go back to my regular general dentist after the periodontist?
Visits to a periodontist do not take the place of those to your general dentist. Replies Hall, “A periodontist provides only limited specialty treatment. The services of a general dentist are of paramount importance to patients.”