What Is a Periodontist?

A periodontist is a specialist who treats issues with your gums and the bones in your mouth.

What Does a Periodontist Do?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating gum disease. They also help you manage signs of advancing gum problems like oral inflammation. Gum disease happens when the tissue around your teeth gets infected, causing inflammation. Plaque-forming bacteria that build up on your teeth usually cause this swelling as it spreads below the gum line. The early form of gum disease is called gingivitis. You can control this condition with treatment, by keeping your mouth and teeth clean, and seeing the dentist regularly. However, more advanced gum disease -- or periodontitis -- may require more extensive treatment. That’s when you need to see a periodontist. They’ll review your dental and medical histories. Then they’ll do a dental exam to come up with the best treatment option. This could include both surgical and nonsurgical methods.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Scaling and root planing are non-surgical treatments to remove plaque and tartar from deep under the gum line. These procedures are sometimes paired with antimicrobial or antibiotic medicines as well, depending on the case. A periodontist could also prescribe a tray delivery system for you to wear at home. This custom-fit impression of your teeth puts prescription medication right on them.

Surgical treatments

The conditions gingivitis and periodontitis can cause your gums to recede, exposing a tooth's root. A gum graft, where tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth and used to cover the receded gum line, can be performed by a periodontist. Having a healthy gum line can help stop tooth decay, reduce sensitivity and pain, and improve your smile.

  • Laser treatments

  • Regenerative procedures to encourage new bone and tissue growth

  • Dental crown lengthening, removing excess gum tissue

  • Dental implants to hold a replacement tooth or bridge

  • Periodontal pocket reduction procedures -- also called osseous surgery -- to help limit the space around your tooth’s root where bacteria can form

  • Dental crown lengthening to fix a gummy smile or an uneven gum line

  • Gum grafts to reduce the appearance of long teeth from age-related recession or prior gum disease

  • Ridge augmentation to restore the natural curve of the gums and jaw after replacing a lost tooth with a fake, or artificial, tooth

Swollen or puffy gums

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is often the first sign of plaque and tartar-forming bacteria. If left untreated, the inflammation can cause pockets to form around your teeth, increasing your risk of infection and tooth loss. Swollen gums can make your teeth look smaller and may be dark red rather than a healthy light pink. In the early stages, gingivitis can be treated with a deep cleaning at your dentist and taking care of your oral hygiene at home.

Gums that bleed easily

If your gums are bleeding easily, it could be a sign of inflammation. See your dentist if your gums are tender to the touch, your toothbrush is pink after brushing, or you spit out blood when you brush or floss.

Bad breath

If you have bad breath that does not go away after practicing good oral hygiene, it may be a sign of an underlying infection or dental issue.

Painful chewing

If you have gum inflammation, it can cause pockets to form around your teeth over time. This can make your teeth more sensitive and loose, and you may have trouble chewing. If you notice a change in the way your teeth fit together or new spaces forming between your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist.

Receding gum line

Receding gums are not always due to gum disease. This can also result from brushing your teeth too hard, which injures the gum tissue. A periodontist can fix this issue for cosmetic purposes, potentially lowering your risk of gum problems in the future. Gum recession that doesn’t result from too much brushing is usually a sign of later-stage gum disease, however. At this point, a periodontist can examine the issue and advise on appropriate treatment.

References

Papaspyridakos P, Mokti M, Chen CJ, Benic GI, Gallucci GO, Chronopoulos V (October 2014). "Implant and prosthodontic survival rates with implant fixed complete dental prostheses in the edentulous mandible after at least 5 years: a systematic review". Clinical Implant Dentistry and Related Research. 16 (5): 705–17. doi:10.1111/cid.12036. PMID 23311617.

Berglundh T, Persson L, Klinge B (2002). "A systematic review of the incidence of biological and technical complications in implant dentistry reported in prospective longitudinal studies of at least 5 years". Journal of Clinical Periodontology. 29 Suppl 3 (Suppl 3): 197–212, discussion 232–3. doi:10.1034/j.1600-051X.29.s3.12.x. PMID 12787220.

Pjetursson BE, Thoma D, Jung R, Zwahlen M, Zembic A (October 2012). "A systematic review of the survival and complication rates of implant-supported fixed dental prostheses (FDPs) after a mean observation period of at least 5 years". Clinical Oral Implants Research. 23 Suppl 6: 22–38. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0501.2012.02546.x. PMID 23062125.

Bozini T, Petridis H, Garefis K, Garefis P (2011). "A meta-analysis of prosthodontic complication rates of implant-supported fixed dental prostheses in edentulous patients after an observation period of at least 5 years". The International Journal of Oral & Maxillofacial Implants. 26 (2): 304–18. PMID 21483883.

Simonis P, Dufour T, Tenenbaum H (July 2010). "Long-term implant survival and success: a 10-16-year follow-up of non-submerged dental implants". Clinical Oral Implants Research. 21 (7): 772–7. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0501.2010.01912.x. PMID 20636731.

Chappuis V, Buser R, Brägger U, Bornstein MM, Salvi GE, Buser D (December 2013). "Long-term outcomes of dental implants with a titanium plasma-sprayed surface: a 20-year prospective case series study in partially edentulous patients". Clinical Implant Dentistry and Related Research. 15 (6): 780–90. doi:10.1111/cid.12056. PMID 23506385."Dental Implants: Medical Review USA". 2021-08-18. Archived from the original on 2021-11-17. Retrieved 2021-11-17.

Misch CE (2007). Contemporary Implant Dentistry. St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby Elsevier. Elani HW, Starr JR, Da Silva JD, Gallucci GO (December 2018). "Trends in Dental Implant Use in the U.S., 1999-2016, and Projections to 2026". Journal of Dental Research. 97 (13): 1424–1430. doi:10.1177/0022034518792567. PMC 6854267. PMID 30075090.

Palmer, R. (2008). A clinical guide to implants in dentistry. Palmer, Paul J., Howe, Leslie C., British Dental Association. (2nd ed.). London: British Dental Association. ISBN 978-0-904588-92-7. OCLC 422757942.

Sinn DP, Bedrossian E, Vest AK (May 2011). "Craniofacial implant surgery". Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinics of North America. 23 (2): 321–35, vi–vii. doi:10.1016/j.coms.2011.01.005. PMID 21492804.