What is a Periodontist?

What is a periodontist, and how does the specialization differ from that of a dentist? People tend to be most familiar with the general practitioners within the medical field, such as their family’s doctor, dentist, or optometrist. This is understandable, as these are the professionals that patients tend to see most often — usually once a year — and who patients end up building the closest relationships with over time.

However, understanding the specialists and subspecialists within each area of medicine can be confusing, particularly when one specialist’s area of expertise is so close to another’s. So when a patient is encouraged by their general practitioner to visit a particular specialist, it may not be inherently clear why that recommendation was given, or what role that specialist plays in the patient’s treatment plan.

For instance, when visiting a dentist for an annual check-up and cleaning, the dentist may recommend a visit to a periodontist. But what work does a periodontist do that separates them from a dentist? Understanding that difference, and the overall differences between a periodontist and a dentist, will help patients come to their next visit prepared, should they or someone they know ever need the services of a periodontist. 

What is a Periodontist?

Periodontists specialize in treating the gums and the bones just beneath the gums that support the teeth. The name “periodontist” actually comes from the full name for gum disease — periodontitis — which periodontists specialize in treating, preventing, and diagnosing. They also work closely with dental implants, making sure implants are placed, maintained, and repaired correctly. Patients who have advanced stages of gingivitis, who are at risk of or have already been diagnosed with gum disease, or who need specific procedures related to the gums will be recommended to visit with a periodontist to find the best course of treatment for their health concerns.

Periodontists treat gingivitis and gum disease by using non-surgical and surgical treatments to remove plaque and tartar, treat the infections, and repair the gum-line if there are signs of damage. First, periodontists will get a sense of a patient’s gum health and determine how best to treat a patient. They then utilize techniques such as scaling and root planing to remove plague and tartar buildup below the gum-line and on the roots of the tooth, as well as prescribe medicines to treat infections from gum disease. If there is any damage to the gums, or if there is a need for dental implants, periodontists can perform surgeries to clean up the gum-line, remove excess gum tissue, insert dental implants, and perform certain cosmetic procedures around the gums to help patients improve their smiles.

Periodontists vs Dentists

The realms of care for dentists and periodontists do cross over, but there are major differences between the two roles. Dentists are also highly skilled at treating issues related to gingivitis, gum disease, and the gums in overall. However, dentists are required to maintain a more broad understanding of issues related to overall oral health as well. Because they are more general practitioners, dentists are likely to see more patient traffic, but as mentioned before, dentists work closely with and refer patients to periodontists when the need arises. Dentists also do not directly perform oral surgeries.

Periodontists do not generally step out their area of expertise, focusing only on the issues of gum health and gum disease. There are a few additional requirements to become a periodontist, as well — namely, an additional 3 years of post-doctoral training on top of the undergraduate and dental school degrees required for both dentists and periodontists.

A dentist can treat the majority of the initial periodontal issues that arise, but if the gum issues persist or if they become more complex and require a deeper level of treatment, then they will refer patients on to a periodontist. If a dentist makes the referral, it’s in a patient’s best interests to take the referral seriously and visit with the periodontist, as they will be able to most effective treat any gum issues directly at the root of the issue.

What is a good option if you need a periodontist? If you are looking for dental specialists that provide top quality care and customer service, look to the team at Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry of Frankfurt. Providing the community with high-quality, professional dental services from an experienced, committed staff, Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry is dedicated to making each patient feel welcome, safe, and respected. Reach out to the team at Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry today to schedule your next dental service appointment.