Gum specialists, or periodontists, are dental practitioners who specialise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum conditions – including two forms of gum disease: gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease with inflammation of the gum; and periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that results in loss of the supporting structures of the tooth, including the surrounding bone and the ligament connecting the tooth to the bone.
Periodontists are also experts in implant surgery, bone grafts, periodontal surgery and gum lifts. In addition to their degree in general dentistry, these gum specialists undertake at least three years of postgraduate study, during which they receive specific training in all of the above areas. Periodontists often treat more problematic periodontal cases such as those with a complex medical history.
They perform a ranges of treatments, such as root planing and scaling or root surface debridement. They can also treat severe gum problems using a range of surgical procedures.
During your first dental visit to the periodontist, he or she will review your complete medical and dental histories to establish a context for your oral health. It is important for the periodontist to know if you are a smoker, are taking any medications or are being treated for any other medical condition that might affect their periodontal care (including heart disease, diabetes and pregnancy).
The periodontist will examine your gums, checking for gum recession, occlusion (how your teeth bite together) and any loose or mobile teeth. They will then take measurements using a small instrument called a periodontal probe, placing it between your teeth and gums to determine the depth of those spaces, known as periodontal pockets, and will record these. The measurements help the periodontist assess the health of your gums.
X-rays may also be taken to check the supporting bone below the gum line, which cannot be seen in the mouth. In most cases, a patient’s periodontal needs can be managed by a general dentist working in tandem with a dental hygienist; this applies in particular to patients presenting with gingivitis.
However, when a patient shows signs of periodontal disease, effective treatment relies on an increased level of expertise in the hands of a trained specialist. Patients who present with moderate or severe levels of periodontal disease, or more complex oral health cases, are best managed by an holistic partnership between their dentist, a hygienist and a periodontist.
At Smile Solutions, for your convenience we offer the services of all of these professionals collaborating closely in one central location.