Helpful Questions to Ask a Periodontal Specialist
If you suspect you have gum disease or are otherwise concerned about the condition of your gums, expert help is on hand in the form of periodontal specialists.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research1 (NIDCR) reports that eight in ten adults in the U.S. have experienced gum disease and more than 50 percent have had bleeding gums – a typical sign of gingivitis, the initial stage of periodontitis.
Periodontists are dentists who focus on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease. But how do you know which periodontal specialist is right for you? We’ve put together a list of ten helpful questions to ask a periodontal specialist to steer you in the right direction.
1. How long have you specialized in gum disease?
All periodontists undergo extra training after dental school, but some will have gained more experience than others over the years while keeping up to speed with the latest technological advances in the field. For instance, a key development in periodontal treatment in recent years has been the realization that diseased tissue can be regenerated, not simply patched up.
2. What sort of technology can you use to help treat me?
Experienced periodontal specialists2 stay up to date with technological developments such as LANAP3 (Laser-Assisted New Attachment Procedure) for severe and persistent gum disease, and VELscope oral assessments to diagnose tissue irregularities.
3. Do you undergo continuing education and training?
All periodontal specialists have completed at least three additional years of education and training after dental school and must be licensed by the American Board of Periodontology4 (ABP). To maintain board certification, they must undergo continuing education. Ask your prospective periodontist what type of conferences, seminars, and classes they attend to stay abreast of periodontal treatment developments. The top periodontal specialists are held in such high regard by the profession that they are in demand as research experts and mentors.
4. Is periodontal treatment right for me?
A good periodontist will never push you into unnecessary treatment. If they think there’s a better alternative, they’ll tell you so, and clarify why. However, if you do need the attentions of a gum specialist, they will explain exactly what’s going wrong with your gums and what needs to be done to fix the problem.
5. What types of sedation do you offer?
If you’re a particularly nervous patient, sedation dentistry can help you to relax and feel comfortable during procedures. A quality periodontal practice will offer three types of sedation dentistry: minimal, moderate and deep. Sedation is administered by inhalation, taking a pill, or with an injection into a vein. If you think IV (intravenous) sedation may be the way to go, ask whether your periodontist is IV licensed by the Board of Dental Examiners.
6. Is periodontal treatment painful?
A top periodontist will be upfront about what you can expect during and after treatment. Depending on the complexity of the procedure you require, you can expect some discomfort. Your periodontist should be able to tell you what techniques and medications they will use to control this, including local anesthetic for relatively minor treatments and general anesthetic for more invasive procedures. After treatment, your periodontist can advise you on prescription or over-the-counter pain relief.
7. Can I see testimonies from your existing or previous patients?
Reputable periodontists typically keep a portfolio showcasing their work, including before-and-after photos of satisfied patients. Alternatively, they may point you to the testimonials page of the practice’s website, which can give you a good idea of the scope and effectiveness of treatment carried out.
8. How will you treat my problem?
Ask your potential periodontist how they will handle your specific case. A good periodontal specialist will always start with the least invasive, non-surgical options such as scaling and root planing – the first line of defense against gum disease. If periodontal disease is diagnosed early, this may be the only treatment you need.
9. What type of surgical procedures can you perform?
In cases where gum tissue or bone surrounding your teeth is beyond repair with non-surgical treatment, an experienced periodontal surgeon will be able to tell you which surgical procedure can best address your specific problem. Surgical treatment options for gum disease include pocket depth reduction to remove diseased tissue beneath the gum line, regeneration to restore bone and soft tissue and gum grafts for receding gums.
10. What are my payment options?
Your periodontal specialist should be willing to discuss the cost of your treatment and the payment options available. A good practice will accept most major credit cards and insurance and offer affordable payment plans. Look for a periodontal office that will go the extra mile and take care of your insurance claim and paperwork for you.
What Else Do I Need to Know about a Periodontist?
Getting answers from a periodontal specialist to questions about training, experience, and treatment and payment options will go a long way in helping you to make an informed decision about your choice of periodontal care provider. Finding a good periodontist can help your overall health as well as improve the condition of your gums. A periodontal expert will have a thorough understanding of how the health of your gums can impact your overall well being in unpredictable ways. Severe gum disease has been linked to issues such as diabetes, respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer.
Once you have undergone periodontal treatment, a periodontist focused on preventative care can reduce these health risks by offering advice on oral healthcare and diet and through early detection of any further signs of gum disease, which typically allows for faster and more effective treatment.
You’ll also feel much happier with a periodontal specialist you know you can place your trust in and who demonstrates a compassionate, sympathetic approach in their dealings with patients.
And don’t forget about the dental team behind your periodontal specialist. The best periodontists surround themselves with a highly capable and approachable team of surgical assistants, dental hygienists, office managers, and patient care coordinators.