Gum disease might not be something we think about regularly, but once it sets in, it’s important to schedule an appointment to see your dentist. Depending on the severity of damage to your teeth and gums, your dentist may be able to treat the problem. If not, you’ll be referred to a periodontist as they have the specialized education and training to treat all levels of gum disease and restore your dental health!
How is a periodontist different from a dentist?
Think of your dentist as a general practitioner. They have the education and experience to address most ordinary dental concerns. Need a cavity filled? Routine teeth cleaning? Fix a chipped tooth? While a dentist can help you keep your teeth healthy and attractive, sometimes, a condition may occur that requires a specialist.
A dentist who specializes in treating gum disease is known as a periodontist. They can diagnose, treat, and help you manage oral inflammation in the gums that can negatively impact your teeth and overall health and wellness.
Reasons why you might need a periodontist
If your general dentist believes that your gum disease is getting worse or you’re at risk of losing teeth due to the severity of inflammation, your dentist will recommend a periodontist. Here are a few reasons why you may need a dental specialist:
- Swollen gums: Gingivitis causes inflammation around your teeth, and the infection can lead to tooth loss. If your gums are a dark red color instead of light pink, they may be swollen.
- Gums that bleed easily: Inflammation also causes your gums to bleed easily. Speak to your dentist if you notice that your gums are tender or if you routinely find blood when you brush or floss your teeth.
- Bad breath: Bad breath can be caused by many things, including dehydration, medication, or certain foods. However, if bad breath doesn’t go away and you’re regularly brushing and flossing, it could be a sign of decay along the gumline.
- Painful chewing: Inflammation along the gums can loosen your teeth and make them sensitive to cold or hot foods or liquids. You might also experience pain when chewing.
- Receding gum line: Your gum line can recede due to brushing your teeth too frequently or with too much pressure. However, it can also be a sign of gum disease.
How does a periodontist treat gum disease?
Like many health conditions, gum disease doesn’t suddenly appear. Often, it’s the result of many years of poor dental care and neglect. As a result, plaque gradually builds up on the teeth and causes swelling as it collects below the gum line along your teeth. Typically, gum disease starts as gingivitis and slowly progresses in severity. If your dentist has warned you that you’re developing gingivitis, you can stop it from spreading and developing into gum disease by keeping your mouth and teeth clean and scheduling routine cleanings. Once gingivitis advances to the level of periodontitis (gum disease), you’ll need to see a periodontist for treatment.
Once you meet with the periodontist and assess the severity of your condition, they will present you with surgical and nonsurgical methods for reducing inflammation and restoring dental wellness.
Treating gum disease: Surgical treatments
Periodontitis causes receding gums, exposing the root of each tooth. A surgical treatment used by periodontists is a gum graft, where tissue is taken from the roof of the mouth, placed along the receding gum line. The graft helps restore a healthy gum line which will stop tooth decay, sensitivity, and pain.
Treating gum disease: Nonsurgical treatments
Perioscopy is a non-surgical option for removing plaque that’s below the gum line. The tiny camera of perioscope is attached to the dental instrument and allows your periodontist to see the surfaces of your teeth below the gumline. Perioscopy is done without cutting, stitches, or prolonged healing times and allows the periodontist to remove all plaque and deposits causing inflammation.
Perioscopy vs. traditional surgical methods
For decades, the only way to successfully address gum disease was painful and expensive dental surgery. Thanks to technology, the small camera of the perioscope allows your periodontist to identify and remove the build-up causing gum disease quickly. Unlike gum grafting surgery, with a perioscopy, there is minimal pain during or after the procedure. Local anesthesia is typically administered before the procedure, and over-the-counter pain medications are suggested following the procedure for any lingering discomfort.
In addition to the relative ease of this non-invasive procedure, the cost of having a perioscopy is generally less than that of gum grafting surgery.
What to consider when choosing a periodontist
When you have your initial consultation with the periodontist, it’s important to share all of the symptoms you’re having and be honest about any health conditions or medications you take. The periodontist will review your medical history and conduct a comprehensive oral exam to identify the extent of the gum disease. They will also measure the spaces between your gums and teeth and take X-rays to determine if any bone loss has occurred.
The exam, combined with your medical history and test results, will allow them to determine the best periodontal treatment plan for your condition. As the patient, never hesitate to ask questions about treatment options and the periodontist’s experience with less invasive procedures such as perioscopy.
Is it possible to avoid gum disease?
Absolutely! It’s never too late to make oral health and lifestyle changes that will keep gum disease away and keep your teeth looking their best.
- Brush and floss teeth after every meal
- Brush lightly with a soft-bristled toothbrush OR
- Brush with an electric toothbrush that has a pressure sensor
- Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings
- Quit smoking and avoid chewing tobacco
- Reduce consumption of sugary drinks and foods
Preserve your smile and your health
If your general dentist has recommended you to a periodontist, take action and schedule your appointment right away. By working together, you’ll be able to get rid of gum disease once and for all!