What is a Periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the soft tissues of the mouth and the underlying jawbone that supports the teeth. A dentist must first graduate from an accredited dental school before undertaking a periodontology residency training program.  After completing this additional three years of study within periodontics, a candidate can be certified.

The primary focus of this residency training is on both surgical and non-surgical management of periodontal disease and the placement of dental implants. 

Conditions Treated by a Periodontist

The periodontist is mainly concerned with preventing the onset of gum disease (periodontal disease); diagnosing conditions affecting the gums and jawbone; and treating gingivitis, periodontitis, and bone loss. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition and remains the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world.

The periodontist is able to treat mild, moderate, and advanced gum disease by addressing the bacterial infection causing the problem, providing periodontal treatment, and providing education on good oral hygiene. 

The most common conditions treated by a periodontist are:

  • Gingivitis – This is the mild inflammation of the gums that can be signified by pain and bleeding.
  • Mild/moderate periodontitis – When the pockets between the teeth and the soft tissues in general exceed 6mm in depth, significant bone loss can occur, causing shifting or loss of teeth.
  • Advanced periodontitis – When the pockets between the teeth and the soft tissues in general exceed 6mm in depth, significant bone loss may occur; causing shifting or loss of teeth.
  • Missing teeth – When teeth are missing as a result of bone loss, the periodontist can implant prosthetic teeth.  These teeth are anchored to the jawbone and restore functionality 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 disease, replace missing teeth, and make the appearance of the smile more aesthetically pleasing. 

Here 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 prosthetic tooth to the jawbone.
  • Osteoplasty (hard tissue recontouring) – Once periodontitis has been treated, the periodontist can recontour the hard tissue to make the smile both natural-looking and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Gingivoplasty (soft tissue recontouring) – As gums recede due to periodontitis, the teeth may appear longer, causing a “toothy" smile. The periodontist can remove tissues or straighten the gum line to make the teeth look more even.
  • Bone grafting – Dental implants can only be positioned if there is sufficient bone to attach the prosthetic tooth to.  If bone loss has occurred, bone grafting is an excellent way to add or “grow” bone so that an implant can be properly secured. 
  • Deep pocket cleanings – As gingivitis and 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.
  • Crown lengthening – In order to expose more of the natural tooth, the periodontist can remove some of the surrounding gingival tissue.

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.

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