So what is periodontology, periodontal disease and what does a periodontist do?
Periodontitis, also generally called gum disease or periodontal disease, begins with bacterial growth in your mouth and may end - if not properly treated - with tooth loss due to the destruction of the tissue that surrounds your teeth.
It’s thought that periodontitis begins with plaque formation. Plaque that stays on your teeth longer than two or three days can harden under your gumline into tartar (calculus).
Tartar makes plaque more difficult to remove and acts as a reservoir for bacteria.The longer that plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more damage they can do.
Initially, they may simply irritate and inflame the gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. This is called gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease.
Ongoing inflammation eventually causes pocket development between your gums and teeth that became filled with plaque, tartar and bacteria. Bacteria deposit endotoxin — a byproduct of their own metabolism — which is responsible for much of the inflammation around teeth.
In time, these pockets become deeper and more bacteria accumulate, eventually advancing under your gum tissue. These deep infections cause loss of tissue and bone. If too much bone is destroyed, you may lose one or more teeth.
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease. Periodontists often treat more problematic periodontal cases, such as those with severe gum disease or a complex medical history. Periodontists offer a wide range of treatments, such as scaling and root planing (in which the infected surface of the root is cleaned) or root surface debridement (in which damaged tissue is removed). They can also treat patients with severe gum problems using a range of surgical procedures. In addition, periodontists are specially trained in the placement, maintenance, and repair of dental implants.
During the first visit, the periodontist usually reviews the patient’s complete medical and dental histories. It is extremely important for the periodontist to know if any medications are being taken or if the patient is being treated for any condition that can affect periodontal care, such as heart disease, diabetes, or pregnancy.
How Does My Dentist Diagnose Gum Disease?
During a dental exam, your dentist typically checks for these things:
- Gum bleeding, swelling, firmness, and pocket depth (the space between the gum and tooth; the larger and deeper the pocket, the more severe the disease)
- Teeth movement and sensitivity and proper teeth alignment
- Your jawbone, to help detect the breakdown of bone surrounding your teeth
Should you visit a periodontist?
Some patients’ periodontal needs can be managed by the general dentist. However, as more and more patients are exhibiting signs of periodontal disease, coupled with research that suggests a relationship between periodontal disease and other chronic diseases of aging, periodontal treatment may necessitate a greater understanding and increased level of expertise by a trained specialist. Patients who present with moderate or severe levels of periodontal disease, or patients with more complex cases, will be best managed by a partnership between the dentist and periodontist.
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