A Periodontist is a dentist who has specialized within the profession of dentistry and been expertly trained in the health and management of the soft tissues of the mouth and the underlying jawbone which supports the teeth. A dentist must first graduate from an accredited dental school with a doctorate degree (DMD or DDS) before undertaking several additional years of advanced study and patient care from an accredited periodontics residency program. Once completed, the dentist is then awarded with an advanced post-doctoral degree.
The primary focus of periodontal specialty training is on both non-surgical and surgical management of periodontal disease (gum disease), the replacement of lost dental foundation including the gums and jawbone and finally the placement of dental implants in order to restore lost or missing teeth.
Conditions Treated by a Periodontist
The periodontal specialist is mainly concerned with preventing the onset of gum disease, diagnosing diseased conditions and infections affecting the gums and jawbone, and then treating gingivitis, periodontal disease and loss/destruction of gums and jawbone themselves. Periodontal disease is a chronic, progressive condition and is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the United States today. Currently, it is estimated that 50% of the adult American population has moderate to advanced periodontal disease and only 3-5% have been accurately diagnosed and are receiving quality management for their ailment.
The periodontal specialist is able to treat mild, moderate and advanced forms of gum disease by first diagnosing the bacterial infection and other causative factors, by providing periodontal treatment to control disease and restore lost supporting dental foundation such as the gums and jawbone and finally replace missing teeth as a result of gum and jawbone destruction with dental implants (replacement teeth).
Some of the most common conditions treated by the periodontist are:
- Mild/moderate periodontitis – When the pockets/space between the teeth and the gums are measured between 4-6mm in depth and quality dental X-rays reveal mild to moderate loss of bone support for teeth, this condition is classified as mild or moderate periodontal disease (gum disease). Patients may still not notice significant/severe pain or symptom of their condition. This generally is the best time to be diagnosed and treated by a periodontal specialist with the highest degree of predictable outcome in re-achieving oral health and "saving" teeth for a lifetime.
- Advanced periodontitis – When the pockets/space between the teeth and the gums exceed 6mm in depth and quality dental X-rays reveal advanced or severe loss of bone support for teeth, this condition is classified as advanced periodontal (gum disease). At this point a patient may notice shifting or looseness of teeth, lose confidence in their ability to bite and chew harder foods and may start to develop severe tooth related pain. It is at this point that patient can began to lose their teeth.
- Gum recession - When the gum tissues pull away from the root surfaces of the teeth exposing the actual root itself. This condition can lead to longer looking or discolored appearances of the teeth. Loss of gum tissue can also result in tooth sensitivity and if severe enough can result in thin and weakened gums which no longer provide a quality protective "seal" around the neck of a tooth. The protective "seal" of healthy gum tissues prevents against bacterial invasion to supporting jawbone.
- Missing teeth – When teeth are missing as a result of bone destruction the periodontist can implant new teeth using dental implants. These new teeth are anchored to the jawbone and restore both esthetics and functionality to the mouth. Dental implants are best placed in the patient with a healthy/non-diseased mouth or the patient who has a high degree of control over their periodontal disease.