Periodontics deals with the treatment of gum (periodontal) disease. Periodontal disease is a common dental disease that ranges from gum inflammation to a serious disease that causes major damage to your gums and other supporting structures of your teeth. In the worst cases, you can lose some of your teeth due to this disease.
Periodontists are dental specialists who focus on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment (both surgical and non-surgical) of periodontal disease as well as the placement of dental implants. After graduating from an accredited dental school with either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) degree, a periodontist must complete at least another 3 years of training in a periodontology residency program at an American Dental Association (ADA) accredited school.
After completing this program many periodontists will earn a national board certification through the American Board of Periodontology (ABP). To maintain their certification, periodontists must recertify every 6 years.
The Cause of Gum Disease
What causes gum disease?
In one word: bacteria. Our mouths are full of them. This bacteria, along with mucus and other gunk (not an official dental term!) forms plaque. While brushing and flossing regularly can help get rid of plaque, any plaque that isn’t removed can turn into tartar. Once you have tartar in your mouth, brushing won’t get rid of it. Tartar must be removed by a dentist (or dental assistant).
If it isn’t removed, plaque and tartar can lead to an inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. This is when you have red, swollen gums that bleed easily. Gingivitis is a form of gum disease that, if treated, isn’t that serious and can be reversed with regular brushing, flossing and regular cleaning at your dentist’s office.
If your gingivitis isn’t treated, then things get more serious. It can lead to periodontitis. This is where your gums can actually pull away from your teeth and cause pockets or spaces that become infected. We’ll spare you the gnarly details but this infection can destroy the bones, gums and tissue that support your tooth (or teeth). When this happens, your infected teeth may have to be removed.
Common Types of Periodontal Treatments
So how does a periodontist treat gum disease? Well, it depends on your specific situation, but here are some of the common procedures:
1. Scaling and root planing aimed at cleaning the root surfaces and removing the bacterial toxins.
2. Regeneration, a surgical procedure, where the periodontist folds back your gum tissue to remove the bacteria. This is followed by treatments used to encourage your body’s natural ability to regenerate bone and tissue.
3. A similar surgical procedure called pocket reduction where the gum tissue is folded back to remove bacteria before being secured back into place.
4. Gingivectomy where excess tissue is removed from the affected area(s).
5. There are also periodontal plastic surgery options which seek to prevent or correct gum disease related issues and give you a healthy, beautiful smile.
6. Lastly, more periodontists are using laser treatments which can help treat gum disease in a minimally invasive way and save patients from having to go through a more traditional scalpel and suture surgery.
Signs of Gum Disease
Some signs of gum disease include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth
- Receding gums/longer appearing teeth
If you are concerned you may have gum disease, schedule an appointment to have your gums checked by a periodontist in your area.