What Conditions do Periodontists Treat?
Periodontists are dentists who specialize in treating gum disease, which requires comprehensive training and keeping up to speed with the latest treatment techniques.
The medical condition of gum disease is called periodontal disease or periodontitis. Periodontitis is a Greek term meaning “inflammation around the tooth”. The initial stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis – inflammation of the gums. Without treatment, gingivitis can progress to full-blown periodontitis.
Periodontists often treat more complex conditions resulting from gum disease and offer a wide range of surgical and non-surgical treatments.
Conditions that can be treated by a periodontist include:
- Bleeding gums.
- Swollen gums.
- Receding gums.
Periodontists are also expert in treating tooth loss with the use of dental implants.
Non-Surgical Treatments by Periodontists
Non-surgical therapy can be effective in the early stages of gum disease. These treatments include scaling and root planing, periodontal maintenance, and medications.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical procedure to remove build-ups of plaque and tartar. Plaque is a sticky coating that forms on your teeth as a result of a combination of:
- Bacteria that live in the mouth.
- Sugars and acids from what you eat.
- Food debris.
If excessive accumulations of plaque are not removed, they can harden into tartar (calculus), that attacks tooth enamel and works its way beneath the gum line. Only a dental professional can remove tartar. Scaling is more intensive than a routine professional dental cleaning, going below the gum line to get rid of plaque and tartar. It’s typically followed by root planing, in which tooth roots are smoothed (planed) to promote healing. Smooth, clean root surfaces help to prevent further build-ups of bacteria.
Periodontal maintenance following gum disease treatment entails keeping bacteria under control above and below the gum line. It’s usually carried out every two to four months. In rare cases, further scaling and root planing may be necessary in areas of persistent inflammation.
Medications to Treat Gum Disease
Antibiotic medication can be placed under the gum line to kill bacteria that may have survived scaling and root planing, or you may get a customized tray-delivery system to use at home. Antibiotic pills can also be prescribed in conjunction with gum disease treatments.
Surgical Treatments by Periodontists
As skilled dental surgery specialists, periodontists treat conditions arising from more advanced cases of gum disease when it’s necessary to reshape and reposition bone and soft tissues that support your teeth or create better access to remove diseased matter.
Surgical treatments by periodontists are typically performed with a local anesthetic and include:
Pocket Reduction Surgery
Pocket reduction surgery is also known as gingival flap surgery and is the most common surgical treatment for gum disease. It addresses problem areas of gums, teeth and surrounding tissue and blood vessels to stop the infection from spreading.
Gum tissue is cut and folded back and underlying infected tissue removed. The gum flap is then placed back over your teeth and sutured. A dressing called a periodontal pack is then applied.
Periodontists treat severe cases of gum recession with a grafting procedure. The graft material is taken from an outside source or the roof of the patient’s mouth to repair the damage. The most common type of gum graft is called a connective tissue graft when graft material comprising connective – or subepithelial – tissue is attached to the gum.
Apart from fixing oral health issues, a gum graft can also restore the appearance of your smile by addressing the cosmetic problem of exposed tooth roots.
Some periodontists offer AlloDerm gum grafting treatment1, which avoids the need to take tissue from the patient’s mouth. Consisting of donated human skin from tissue banks, AlloDerm is processed to produce regenerative tissue to sustain constant renewal.
A bone graft – also called regenerative surgery – may be required if periodontal disease has resulted in deterioration of bone beneath the gums. The graft is placed in areas of missing bone to encourages the body’s healing system to repair the damage.
Bone grafting can also be used ahead of dental implant treatment in cases of insufficient bone structure to support the implants.
Besides treating gum disease, periodontists are experts in replacing missing teeth with the surgical placement of dental implants2.
Implants have become a popular alternative to traditional dentures and bridges. They provide a solid anchor for individual artificial teeth, and can also be used instead of – or to support – bridges and dentures.
The implant procedure entails insertion of a titanium post into the jaw to provide a firm anchor for a synthetic tooth. It relies on the fusing of bone to the implant. If bone structure is lacking, a graft may be necessary. The prosthetic teeth are customized in the form of a crown, bridge or dentures, which are attached to the implant posts.
Crown lengthening is a common surgical treatment carried out by periodontists to reshape or remove bone or gum tissue – or both – to expose more of a tooth’s structure.
Besides treating gum disease, crown lengthening can also enhance your smile and make restorative dental work easier when a tooth is unable to support a filling or crown.
Some periodontal conditions can be treated with laser surgery such as the LANAP3 (Laser-Assisted New Attachment Procedure).
A painless, scalpel-free procedure with an almost instant recovery time, LANAP enables patients to heal themselves, by removing specific infected gum tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact.
Expertise of Periodontal Specialists
Many adults in the U.S. have some form of gum disease, which can destroy teeth, gum tissue and bone. If you have mild or moderate gum disease, it can probably be treated non-surgically by a periodontist. Advanced cases may require surgery. In either case, the sooner you get treatment, the better.
Periodontists specialize in treating a broad spectrum of conditions caused by gum disease, with expertise founded on more comprehensive training in the field than general dentists. Whether you’re worried about the condition of your gums4 or are considering getting dental implants, an experienced periodontist will be able to give you further advice.