Dentists can treat a wide range of conditions affecting the teeth, gums, and oral cavity. However, occasionally they need to refer a patient to a specialist for more complex dental problems. One such specialist is a periodontist. Continue reading to learn more about periodontal specialists. Get answers to common questions such as – What is a periodontist? Who needs to see a periodontist? How can I find a periodontist near me?
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums. Gums are the soft tissues in the mouth that hold the teeth in place. Gum disease is commonly caused by poor oral hygiene habits (improper or infrequent brushing and flossing). This leads to the formation of plaque (a sticky film of harmful bacteria) on the teeth and gums and causes infection and inflammation of the gums.
Advanced-stage periodontal disease can lead to symptoms such as pain, bleeding gums, problems with chewing, and tooth loss. 1
Besides poor dental hygiene, risk factors for periodontal disease include smoking and medical conditions such as diabetes.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Common symptoms of periodontal (gum) disease include:
- Persistent halitosis (bad breath)
- Swollen, red gums
- Bleeding gums
- Painful gums
- Receding gums
- Pain with chewing
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth
What kind of dentist is a periodontist? Are all dentists periodontists?
A periodontist is a specialist dentist who is trained to prevent, diagnose, and treat gum diseases. Periodontists are also specialists in the treatment of oral inflammation and the placement of dental implants. 2
All dentists are not periodontists. A periodontist goes through three additional years of training after dental school, during which time they become familiar with diagnosing and treating diseases of the gums and performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.
Dentists typically refer a patient to a periodontist if they have a more complex problem related to the gums or a complicated medical history. Periodontists are trained in the latest advances and techniques used for diagnosing and treating severe periodontal disease. They can offer a wide range of treatments, including surgical procedures.
What procedures does a periodontist perform?
Some of the common procedures performed by a periodontist include: 3
Scaling and root planing: This is a deep cleaning of the surfaces of the teeth roots to eliminate plaque and tartar. The treatment is sometimes combined with antibiotics to fight bacteria.
Root surface debridement: This is a procedure during which a periodontist removes damaged tissues from the surface of the tooth root.
Tray delivery systems: Periodontists can take an impression of the patient’s mouth and create a customized tray delivery system, which can be used to deliver prescribed medications at home.
Regeneration: This is a surgical procedure during which a periodontist folds the gum tissue back to help get rid of bacteria. Once the gum tissue has been moved, various treatments, ranging from bone grafts to proteins are used to stimulate the body’s natural regenerative mechanisms to grow healthy new bone and soft tissue.
Dental implants: Periodontists receive extensive training in the placement, maintenance, and repair of dental implants. Implants are surgical fixtures in the jawbone that act as a replacement tooth root. They provide a strong foundation for a replacement tooth or dental bridge.
Gingivectomy: Also known as crown lengthening, this is a procedure during which a periodontist eliminates extra gum tissue under local anesthesia. The sculpting of the gums helps to re-shape the gum line and expose more natural tooth. The procedure can help make a person’s smile more beautiful.
Soft tissue grafting: This is a type of periodontal surgery in which the doctor covers an exposed tooth root with gum tissue taken from somewhere else in the mouth, such as the palate. This procedure is performed to minimize sensitivity or to make the gum line more symmetrical and uniform.
Who should see a periodontist?
You may need to see a periodontist if you have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Red, swollen gums that are painful while chewing.
- Bleeding from the gums while eating or brushing the teeth. This is one of the most common symptoms of gum infection.
- Bad breath that persists despite good oral hygiene. This can be a sign of periodontitis and gingivitis (gum infection and inflammation).
- Receding gums (the teeth appear longer).
- Loose teeth (in people with advanced gum disease, the disease can spread from the gums to the jawbone, causing the teeth to become loose or even fall out completely).
- People with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteopenia are at increased risk of periodontitis. 4 Individuals with these medical conditions should under regular dental checks with a periodontist.
Why should I see a periodontist?
Given that even general dental care can be pretty expensive, you might feel that seeking out a specialist such as a periodontist is an indulgence you can do without. However, while some periodontal needs can be managed by a general dentist, people with more severe gum disease can benefit greatly from the expertise of a periodontist.
It is worth remembering that untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss. Also, the bacterial infection in the gums can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and cause serious complications. Last but not least, periodontal infections are closely related to several chronic health conditions. For example, people with gum disease have a 2-3 times higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke. For these reasons, it could be well worth your time and money to see a periodontist and get the appropriate treatment for your gum disease.
The Express Dentist hotline 1-844-593-0591 is a toll-free 24-hour hotline that connects you to affordable dental care providers in your community. If you need specialist care from a periodontist nearby, call the Express Dentist hotline and gain immediate access to experienced providers for cost-effective periodontal treatment.
Is periodontist treatment covered by medical insurance?
As noted above, many periodontal conditions are closely related to your overall health. Nonetheless, in general, periodontal treatments qualify as specialized dental care and are covered by dental insurance rather than medical insurance. There are some exceptions, however. If the periodontal treatment involves surgery, you may be able to file it under your medical coverage if your periodontist can demonstrate that the procedure is medically necessary.
How can I take care of my gums at home?
You can take care of your gums and avoid periodontal disease by taking some simple steps at home to maintain the health of your teeth and gums.
- Brush your teeth twice a day and rinse your mouth after every meal or snack.
- Floss regularly and consider using an interdental cleaner to supplement your oral hygiene routine.
- Use a soft toothbrush. Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months.
- Quit smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Go for regular dental checks (once every six months) and professional cleanings.
- Visit your primary care doctor regularly for proper diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. Many health conditions are linked to periodontal disease.
How do I find a periodontist near me?
Express Dentist makes it quick and convenient to find a periodontist in your area. We have an exhaustive list of partner providers who offer appointments during regular hours as well as emergency care after hours and on weekends. All you have to do is make a phone call to our toll-free hotline 1-844-593-0591 which is open all times of the day and night, 7 days a week, and gain instant access to top-rated periodontists in your community.
At Express Dentist, our goal is to bring you high-quality dental care that is affordable. To this end, we have partnered with a nationwide network of leading dental care providers. Each of our partner periodontists is vetted to ensure you receive the highest quality of care from accredited providers.
With the Express Dentist hotline in your phone book, you never have to delay getting necessary treatment for gum disease, dental implants, or periodontal procedures. Express Dentist can get you same-day dental appointments and emergency dental treatment. Call the free Express Dentist hotline 1-844-593-0591 today. Services are available 24/7.
About the author
Dr. Greg Grillo
Dr. Greg Grillo DDS studied at the University of Washington where he received a bachelors degree with Honors and later attended dental school on the same campus. Following school Dr. Greg served in the United States Navy as a dental officer. During this time he received advanced training in specialty areas of dentistry while also treating families of members of the military.
As well as sharing valuable information on dentistry and oral health, Dr. Greg remains a practicing dentist to this day. He works with families in the Okanogan Valley where he lives with his wife and three children.
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Periodontal (Gum) Disease. Available online. Accessed on May 25, 2021.
- American Academy of Periodontology. What is a periodontist? Available online. Accessed on May 25, 2021.
- American Dental Association. Periodontics. Available online. Accessed on May 25, 2021.
- Preshaw PM, Alba AL, Herrera D, et al. Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship. Diabetologia. 2012;55(1):21-31. doi:10.1007/s00125-011-2342-y Available online. Accessed on May 25, 2021.