Periodontology or periodontics is a specialty of dentistry.
It focuses on the supporting structures of the teeth, such as the jaw, gums, alveolar ridge, and periodontal fibers, which attach the tooth to the sockets in your mouth. In addition, this dental specialty treats diseases of this region and other conditions that impact mouth health.
What Does a Periodontist Do?
A Periodontist cares for patients that have suffered injury or illness to the periodontal region.
They will perform tooth extractions to remove decayed or compromised teeth to prevent infection or additional injury to the jaw. After extraction, they will put in dental implants or other oral apparatus to improve the health and functionality of their patient’s mouth.
Sometimes, when non-surgical cleanings have not calmed periodontal disease (gum disease), a periodontist will perform osseous surgery to reduce the infected tissue and damaged bone around the teeth to restore a healthy environment between the teeth.
How is a Periodontist Different from a Dentist?
Technically, a periodontist IS a dentist that has completed 3 additional years of education and training to become board certified in periodontology.
While this means a periodontist could take care of your standard maintenance cleanings or perform simple fillings like your regular dentist, it’s unlikely that they will fill their appointment books with anything not directly related to the supporting structures of the teeth.
They are surgeons than can perform sophisticated procedures to restore the bone, gums, and ligaments in your mouth to mitigate disease, improve function, and restore a healthy smile to their patients.
What’s the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease?
The biggest difference is that gingivitis only affects the gums, which can be reversed with proper oral hygiene.
If you go to the dentist and the hygienist reprimands you for not flossing regularly, it’s probably because your hygienist sees this early-stage gum disease. Don’t be offended by the admonishment. Know that your hygienist is trying to do you a favor to encourage you to reverse gum disease before it’s too late.
On the other hand, periodontal disease stems from ADVANCED gum disease that has impacted the bone. It is not reversible and can only be treated with medical intervention.
When to See a Periodontist?
In general, your regular dentist will refer you to a periodontist.
You’ll need special attention if you suffer from advanced gum disease, need a tooth extracted, or have a dental implant. Sometimes, to be a candidate for a dental implant, restorative work such as bone grafting is required to create a solid foundation to anchor the dental implant. A periodontist will perform one of three bone graft procedures to replace or augment missing bone around the teeth to support an implant.
Finally, depending on the severity of your periodontal disease, you may need periodontal maintenance. This means visiting your periodontist regularly to avoid infection in the gum tissue and bone. Periodontal disease cannot be cured, but with regular comprehensive care, it can be very well managed to help those most susceptible to periodontal disease.
How to Choose a Periodontist
Ask your standard dental provider for their recommendation. Typically, they will have the opportunity to have patients in common with several local periodontists and can advise you based on the experience of their other patients. The first person recommendation from a trained professional that you trust should always weigh heavily on your decision-making process.
Another thing to consider is if your dental insurance covers a periodontist and to what extent. Periodontists are specialists, which means you may find yourself paying a bit more out of pocket for services than a visit to your regular dentist for a cleaning. Of course, if you are a cash pay patient, don’t be afraid to ask the office manager for your periodontist the cash rate for services you need. On the other hand, you might be surprised by the incentives offered if you are willing to pay all cash upfront for your periodontal care.
Finally, consider what others have shared about their experience with the periodontist and their staff. It’s essential to be confident in your periodontist’s professional ability, track record of success, and comfortable with their bedside manner. Remember, you will not be interacting just with a periodontist for your care. You should consider a holistic evaluation and see if other patients report if the team is a joy to work with (or a maze of never-ending nightmares).
Periodontics is a specialty of dentistry concerned with the structural integrity of what holds your teeth in place. Suppose your regular dentist has informed you that you need periodontal care. In that case, it’s important to understand the nature of care you need, the cost implications, and how you interact with your care providers.
If you are in search of a periodontist, Dr. Jason J. Augustine D.D.S., M.S., P.C. is a premier periodontist in Phoenix, Arizona with more than two decades of experience and scores of patients who enjoy a greater quality of life because of his work.