A periodontist is a dental specialist in periodontal (gum) disease. Seen in conjunction with a regular dentist a periodontist treats the various manifestations of gum problems. Additionally they should be consulted if one is missing one or more teeth and are considering getting dental implants. They will be able to help determine whether or not this is an appropriate decision.
Considering that approximately 75% of Americans have some forms of periodontal or gum disease periodontists play a vital role in maintaining proper dental care. Since gum diseases are usually painless it is not unusual for it to go undetected until it is too late. Periodontal disease affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth and if untreated can lead to teeth loosening gum discomfort and receding gums.
A periodontist should be consulted if one's regular dentist detects an early sign of gum problems. Although subtle dentists are trained to detect early gum problems. These signs include: pockets (when the collar of gum becomes infected and detaches from the tooth the space it leaves is called a pocket); bleeding (although a common occurrence gums should not bleed regularly and is an early sign that pockets and boneless will occur); bone loss (if left untreated bone loss due to periodontal decay can lead to teeth removal); loose teeth; spaces forming between front teeth (although crowding of the mandibular (lower) front incisors occurs naturally as we age space forming between some of the maxillary (front) teeth is a sign of advanced bone loss. This bone loss is due to the lack of tooth support which is a manifestation of progressive gum disease.); halitosis (bad breath); and abscess (the expansion of a gum pocket due to trapped bacteria.)
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque which produces toxins that irritate the gums causing swelling and bleeding. Bacterial plaque constantly forms on one's teeth and if it is not removed by daily brushing and flossing will harden into calculus (tartar). Additional causes of gum disease are smoking genetics stress diabetes poor nutrition medication(s) and grinding or clenching one's teeth.
A periodontist has a variety of treatments to aid gum disease depending on its severity. This includes non-surgical treatments such as scaling and root planing (removing plaque and tartar from deep gum pockets through the thorough cleaning of root surfaces and also smoothing the tooth root to remove bacterial viruses). Periodontal surgery would be necessary if one's periodontist determines non-surgical treatment would be ineffective. The four most common periodontal surgical treatments are pocket reduction procedures (recommended when daily at-home oral hygiene and regular dentistry visits are insufficient due to pockets becoming too deep) regenerative procedures (recommended when the bone supporting the teeth have been destroyed this procedure regenerates the lost tissue and bone) crown lengthening (recommended when one's teeth have been covered with excessive gum tissue this procedure reshapes the excess gum and bone tissue in order to further expose the natural tooth) and soft tissue grafts (recommended when gum recession leads to exposed tooth roots this procedure is used to cover roots or develop gum tissue if it is absent.)
Periodontists are also able to offer a variety of cosmetic procedures used to aid one's oral appearance. These procedures include crown lengthening soft tissue grafts and ridge augmentation (used in cases where an indentation in your gums and jawbone develop due to the absence of one or more teeth. Even if the tooth is replaced this indentation causes it to look too long compared and therefore unnatural. This procedure therefore recaptures the natural contour of one's gums and jaw aiding in the addition of a natural looking new tooth.)