When to See a Periodontist
When to See a Periodontist
Periodontists are special dentists who specialize in diagnosing, treating and preventing diseases and infection of the gums and other soft tissue that surround teeth and the jawbone. Periodontists train three years more than regular dentists and are familiar with advanced techniques that can be used to treat gum disease and also with the placement of dental implants. These special dentists also perform a range of cosmetic procedures aimed at making smiles look as good as possible.
Gum disease starts when toxins in plaque attack the soft tissue that surrounds teeth. This bacteria embeds into the gums and breeds rapidly, leading to infection. As the infection gets worse, it goes deeper into the tissue, leading to irritation and inflammation. The body’s response is to destroy infected tissue, and that means gums recede. The pockets between teeth deepen, and if there is no treatment, the jawbone also recedes, allowing teeth to become unstable and eventually be lost.
Self-Referral And Referrals From General Dentists
You may seek treatment from a periodontist in one of several ways. During a regular dental exam, your general dentist or hygienist may find symptoms of gum disease that is progressing rapidly and refer you to a periodontist. But you don’t have to be referred to a periodontist by a dentist.
If you have any of the following symptoms or signs of gum disease, schedule an appointment with a periodontist yourself as quickly as possible:
- Bleeding from the mouth during brushing or eating. If you have bleeding while you’re eating or brushing your teeth and don’t know the cause, that’s a common sign of periodontal disease that can’t be ignored.
- Bad breath. Halitosis that persists despite a strong oral health program can mean you have gum disease or are starting to get an infection of the gum tissue.
- Gum recession or loose teeth. Teeth that look too long is a sign of gum recession and possible bone loss from gum disease. As the disease progresses and gets into the jawbone which holds teeth in place, the teeth can get loose or even be lost.
- Gangrene. While it is hard to self-diagnose gangrene, a dentist or periodontist can look for the presence of gangrene in tissues, bone and ligaments. This is a very serious condition.
- Other health conditions. Bacteria from gum disease and mouth infections can spread to cause or contribute to heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, osteopenia and other conditions. As the bacteria spreads through the bloodstream, any part of the body can be impacted.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Before starting any kind of dental treatment, a periodontist must examine the gums, jawbone and teeth extensively to come up with the right diagnosis. Once diagnosed, there are many surgical and non-surgical options available that can treat the infection, stop soft tissue recession and replace or restructure teeth problems.
Here are some common diagnoses and treatment options:
- Gingivitis or mild gum disease. When gum pockets are greater than 4 millimeters deep, the periodontist or hygienist may do scaling with root planing to get rid of debris in the pockets so they can properly heal. In addition, advice and information is provided so that a home care program can be established.
Moderate gum disease. When pocket depth reaches the 4 to 6 millimeter range, more extensive root planing and scaling will likely be required. For this procedure, a local anesthetic is often used.
- Advanced gum disease. Once pockets reach the 6 to 7 millimeter range, there is often gum recession and bone loss. Root planing and scaling are first performed, but surgery that can reduce pocket depth may be recommended if the first step is not effective.
- Tooth loss. When one or more teeth are missing because of periodontal disease, dental implants are often an intelligent solution. When bone is strong enough to serve as an anchor for the implant tooth, this option can be utilized. When bone is severely eroded, however, bone grafts may be required before enough material is available to serve as a suitable anchor to the new tooth or teeth.
If you have any comments or questions of any sort about gum or periodontal disease or the practicalities of dental implants, contact the periodontist’s office for the answers and information you need.
If you have need of a Periodontist, call (619) 640-5100 for a free consultation with Dr. Paige Woods, DDS