Dentists who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease are referred to as periodontists. Periodontists receive an additional three years of education beyond traditional dental school. They are also very familiar with the latest diagnostic techniques, periodontal treatments and cosmetic procedures, including the placement of dental implants.
Our periodontal specialists have extensive experience with patients who suffer from severe gum disease and other complex dental issues.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, occurs in many adults. It can range from simple inflammation to major damage of the soft tissue and bone. Left untreated, it will eventually lead to tooth loss. The most common form of gum disease is gingivitis. Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease that occurs when plaque and tartar have built up on your teeth. Your gums become red and swollen, and may easily bleed. Gingivitis may be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental checkups. If gingivitis is not properly treated, it can lead to periodontitis (inflammation around the tooth). When this happens, your gums will pull away from your teeth, forming pockets that become infected. As your body’s immune system fights the bacteria spreading under your gum line, the bone and connective tissue that hold your teeth in place will start to break down. Eventually, the teeth will become loose and need to be removed.
There are several things that can put you at risk for gum disease, including, but not limited to:
- Clenching/Grinding of Teeth
- Poor Oral Hygiene
- Hormonal Changes
- Medications that Cause Dry Mouth
Some diseases, such as cancer, and their treatments can also make you more susceptible to periodontal disease. The milder version of periodontal disease, gingivitis, can appear in your teens. Most people, however, do not exhibit any signs of periodontitis until their late 30s or 40s.
Depending on the extent of your gum disease, the type of periodontal treatment you receive will vary. For those with early stages of periodontal disease, scaling and root planing may help return gums to a healthier state.
Scaling and Root Planing
For many patients, a deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing, may be suggested. In this procedure, the periodontist will scrape tartar from above and below the gum line. He/she will also remove rough spots from the tooth roots. This assists in removing harmful bacteria that gather along the roots and contribute to the gum disease. During the deep cleaning, you may be given Novocain to help reduce your discomfort. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to help prevent further infection.
If your periodontal disease is advanced, oral surgery may be required. There are a few options, depending on the extent of the damage.
- Flap Surgery – This surgery involves lifting the gums around your teeth and removing the tartar buildup. Once thoroughly cleaned, the gums will be sutured back in place so they fit more snuggly around the tooth/teeth. This reduces the depth of the deep pockets and makes it easier to keep your teeth and gums clean.
- Gum Grafting – Gum grafts can correct gingival recession. During the procedure, the periodontist will stitch grafting tissue onto the areas that need additional tissue. This not only improves your oral health, but also your smile!
- Pocket Reduction Surgery – Also known as osseous surgery, pocket reduction surgery can smooth and reshape bone damaged by periodontal disease.
- Dental Implants – For tooth loss due to periodontitis, dental implants may be an option.
Periodontal regeneration, also known as Osseous Surgery, is often recommended when the bone supporting your teeth has deteriorated and non-surgical periodontal treatments, such as scaling and root planing, have not worked. Osseous Surgery eliminates gum pockets by trimming the surrounding infected gum tissue and diseased bone, allowing for easier removal of plaque. It can be performed on one area or several at one time. Spreading out the surgeries over time is not recommended, however, since it may leave the treated areas open to reinfection.
After surgery, teeth may appear longer and the spaces between teeth may seem larger. You may also experience some sensitivity to temperature, but this typically lessens over time. The success of the surgery will depend on your commitment to daily oral hygiene and regular professional care.
Do I Need a Periodontist?
There are several symptoms that may suggest you have gum disease. If you have noticed any of the following oral problems, be sure to see your dentist for a checkup as soon as possible.
- Bleeding or Tender Gums
- Swollen Gums
- Loose Teeth
- Sensitive Teeth
- Receding Gums
- Pain When Chewing
- Ongoing Bad Breath
Any of these issues could be an indication that you have a more serious dental issue. Do not ignore them. Left untreated, many could evolve into advanced periodontal disease. Contact our office today and request a consultation.
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Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the difference between a dentist and a periodontist?
- A dentist typically evaluates and cleans your teeth, gums and other parts of your mouth. For more complex cases, he/she may refer you to a periodontist, who specializes in the treatment of gums and the bone supporting your teeth. Periodontists are trained in advanced treatments and surgical techniques, such as scaling and root planning, regenerative surgery and dental implants.
- My gums bleed when I brush them. Should I be concerned?
- If your gums begin to bleed during your daily brushing and/or flossing routine, you could have early stage gum disease. We recommend visiting a periodontist for a full evaluation as soon as possible.
- How do I know if I have gingivitis or gum disease?
- Gingivitis typically precedes gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Not everyone who has gingivitis, however, will progress to gum disease. The main distinction is that gingivitis may cause your gums to swell and easily bleed during brushing, but there is no damage to your teeth or bone. Those with gum disease will notice the gum and/or bone pulling away from the teeth, leaving behind pockets that easily collect debris and become infected. As the disease progresses, the teeth will loosen and eventually deteriorate. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
- Does scaling and root planning hurt?
- Scaling and root planning, also referred to as a deep cleaning, is one way a periodontist can treat your gum disease. Since your gums may already be overly sensitive due to the gum disease, a local anesthetic may be used to numb the areas being cleaned. This will eliminate any pain and discomfort you may feel during the treatment. After the treatment, your gums are likely to be sore and experience some sensitivity, but this can be managed with an over-the-counter pain medication.
- What are my options for replacing missing teeth?
- There are several options for replacing one or many missing teeth in your mouth. This includes dental bridges, dentures and implants. Your periodontist can review the different treatment options and costs, allowing you to choose which one will best fit into your budget and address your dental needs.
- What is periodontal maintenance therapy?
- If you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease and have already received periodontal treatment, maintenance therapy can help prevent further damage to your teeth and gums. Depending on your specific needs, we will tailor a plan that may include additional checkups and cleanings per year (four or more), plaque removal and polishing.