Chances are, you’ve met with a dental specialist before. Maybe with an endodontist, who did your root canal, or an orthodontist, who may have given you braces. One specialist you may or may not have encountered yet is the periodontist, who works with the gums and the bones and tissues around the teeth. In fact, that’s what periodontal actually means — “around the tooth”.
One reason you may see a periodontist is if you have gum disease or gingivitis, which is a common ailment stemming from lack of oral care. This is diagnosed by checking to see how deep the pockets between the gums and teeth are, as well as whether your gums are inflamed (periodontitis) and if your teeth are loose or even falling out. You’ll also be referred to a periodontist if you have any abscesses on the gums, or if you need dental implants.
So, what kind treatments does a periodontist provide? One common procedure is scaling and root planing (aka “Deep Cleaning”), which we’ve talked about before. By clearing out the tartar and bacteria along the roots that cause the gums to pull away, your gums can heal and attach more securely to the teeth. This halts the progression of gum disease and prevents bone loss that can cause your teeth to fall out.
In the event that there is tooth loss, a periodontist can install dental implants, which are prosthetic teeth that are secured to the jawbone. This is different from a bridge, which is tethered to the surrounding teeth. If the bone loss is so severe that there is no longer any bone to anchor the implant, a periodontist can do reconstructive surgery. This involves grafting bone and tissue to the affected area, to create support for the implant and ensures the prosthetic tooth will be secure and stable.
There are also several procedures involving gum reconstruction, which may be needed in patients whose gums have been worn away by gum disease. A periodontist can graft tissue to raise the gum line and create a more natural looking smile, and also help hold the teeth in more securely. In some cases, patients may have gums that cover too much of their teeth. A periodontist can then remove some of this excess gum tissue make the teeth appear more normal in length and help widen the smile. Additionally, a periodontist may need to remove gum tissue if the tissue is damaged or diseased.
You may be not surprised to hear that your periodontist will tell you that brushing and flossing is absolutely essential to maintaining your gum and periodontal health. Procedures can only do so much — it’s up to you to play an active role in keeping your mouth healthy, too!