What Is a periodontist?

A periodontist is a specialist who treats issues with your gums and the bones in your mouth.

What Does a Periodontist Do?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating gum disease. They also help you manage signs of advancing gum problems like oral inflammation. Gum disease happens when the tissue around your teeth gets infected, causing inflammation. Plaque-forming bacteria that build up on your teeth usually cause this swelling as it spreads below the gum line. The early form of gum disease is called gingivitis. You can control this condition with treatment, by keeping your mouth and teeth clean, and seeing the dentist regularly. However, more advanced gum disease -- or periodontitis -- may require more extensive treatment. That’s when you need to see a periodontist. They’ll review your dental and medical histories. Then they’ll do a dental exam to come up with the best treatment option. This could include both surgical and nonsurgical methods.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Scaling and root planing are non-surgical treatments to remove plaque and tartar from deep under the gum line. These procedures are sometimes paired with antimicrobial or antibiotic medicines as well, depending on the case. A periodontist could also prescribe a tray delivery system for you to wear at home. This custom-fit impression of your teeth puts prescription medication right on them.

Surgical treatments

The conditions gingivitis and periodontitis can cause your gums to recede, exposing a tooth's root. A gum graft, where tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth and used to cover the receded gum line, can be performed by a periodontist. Having a healthy gum line can help stop tooth decay, reduce sensitivity and pain, and improve your smile.

  • Laser treatments

  • Regenerative procedures to encourage new bone and tissue growth

  • Dental crown lengthening, removing excess gum tissue

  • Dental implants to hold a replacement tooth or bridge

  • Periodontal pocket reduction procedures -- also called osseous surgery -- to help limit the space around your tooth’s root where bacteria can form

  • Dental crown lengthening to fix a gummy smile or an uneven gum line

  • Gum grafts to reduce the appearance of long teeth from age-related recession or prior gum disease

  • Ridge augmentation to restore the natural curve of the gums and jaw after replacing a lost tooth with a fake, or artificial, tooth

Swollen or puffy gums

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is often the first sign of plaque and tartar-forming bacteria. If left untreated, the inflammation can cause pockets to form around your teeth, increasing your risk of infection and tooth loss. Swollen gums can make your teeth look smaller and may be dark red rather than a healthy light pink. In the early stages, gingivitis can be treated with a deep cleaning at your dentist and taking care of your oral hygiene at home.

Gums that bleed easily

If your gums are bleeding easily, it could be a sign of inflammation. See your dentist if your gums are tender to the touch, your toothbrush is pink after brushing, or you spit out blood when you brush or floss.

Bad breath

If you have bad breath that does not go away after practicing good oral hygiene, it may be a sign of an underlying infection or dental issue.

Painful chewing

If you have gum inflammation, it can cause pockets to form around your teeth over time. This can make your teeth more sensitive and loose, and you may have trouble chewing. If you notice a change in the way your teeth fit together or new spaces forming between your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist.

Receding gum line

Receding gums are not always due to gum disease. This can also result from brushing your teeth too hard, which injures the gum tissue. A periodontist can fix this issue for cosmetic purposes, potentially lowering your risk of gum problems in the future. Gum recession that doesn’t result from too much brushing is usually a sign of later-stage gum disease, however. At this point, a periodontist can examine the issue and advise on appropriate treatment.

References

1. "The role of the periodontist in the interdisciplinary management of periodontal disease." Journal of Periodontology, 2017.

2. "Periodontal disease and systemic health: A review of the evidence." Journal of Periodontology, 2013.

3. "Periodontal regeneration - current status and directions." Journal of Periodontal Research, 2015.

4. "The role of the periodontist in the management of implant complications."Journal of Periodontology, 2018.

5. "Periodontal considerations for the orthodontic patient." Journal of Periodontology, 2016.

6. "Periodontal plastic surgery." Journal of Periodontology, 2012.

7. "Periodontal microbiology: A review." Journal of Periodontology, 2017.

8. "Diagnosis and classification of periodontal disease." Periodontology 2000, 2018.

9. "Periodontal disease and diabetes: A two-way street."Journal of the American Dental Association, 2014.

10. "The future of periodontal therapy: A shift to regenerative techniques." Journal of Periodontology, 2018.