Have you heard the terminology “periodontist” and been uncertain what the word meant? Together, we will take a look at a periodontist’s role and what conditions we treat.
My name is Dr. Holly Gregory, a periodontist in Kingwood TX. In my practice, we perform periodontics treatments on patients for a variety of conditions and diseases. Take a look.
What exactly is a periodontist?
First, let me explain precisely what a periodontist is. In short, we specialize in treating the gum tissue and gum-related diseases.
We qualify first in general dentistry. Then, we move on for an additional two or three years of specialized education and hands-on training in treating the gums. During that span of time, we gain expertise in everything from non-surgical procedures like early intervention at the first sign of periodontal (gum) disease to surgical treatments to restore gum health.
Only after extensive training and testing do we qualify as periodontists.
How does periodontal disease start?
Periodontal disease starts when plaque, a sticky bacterial film that builds up on the teeth, wedges between the gum and the teeth. That bacteria continues to thrive in that cozy spot, multiplying and causing inflammation that becomes infected.
This is often first detected by your family dentist in an early form of gingivitis. The gums will appear puffy, irritated, tender, and may be starting to recede. The will often remove the plaque, notate the severity of the recession of the gum, and “keep an eye” on the situation for the next six months.
If the gingivitis continues to progress into an infection called periodontitis, your dentist will likely refer you to the periodontist for further evaluation.
Prevention of periodontal disease
Dentists know the main cause of gingivitis, the earliest form of periodontal disease—poor oral hygiene. In most cases, patients who suffer from gingivitis share poor oral hygiene habits. Gingivitis is most often preventable by taking meticulous care in the following steps of oral hygiene:
- Brushing your teeth (at the very least) twice per day, for at least two minutes at a stretch.
- Flossing your teeth daily (as opposed to the average 3 times per week).
- Scrape or brush your tongue, as it also harbors oral bacteria.
- Following with an oral rinse.
Taking those measures can prevent gingivitis and gum disease in most cases.
You might have noticed that I said “most cases” are caused by poor hygiene habits and be wondering about other causes of periodontal diseases.
Some patients afflicted with gingivitis are predisposed to the disease as a result of other medical conditions like heart disease, circulatory disorders, or diabetes.
What’s another contributing factor? Smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco products fosters periodontal disease and can have dire consequences on the patient’s oral health from tooth loss to mouth cancers.
What if I leave my gum disease untreated?
Left untreated, periodontitis ravages your gums. As infections spread, patients report that their mouths become more tender and their gums bleed more. Because of the sore feeling, some patients even stop flossing altogether to avoid the pain.
This creates a perfect storm for the bacteria colony to continue its assault on your mouth. Over time, the gums will completely recede, and the teeth will loosen. Eventually, the patient can suffer catastrophic tooth loss.
More alarmingly, research proves that the infection can spread from the gums and trigger a heart attack or stroke.
You should not leave periodontitis untreated, as the consequences can be deadly.
How can the periodontist help me?
Periodontists can treat your gum disease and are instrumental in helping you save your teeth. They can prescribe medication as a first measure and progress techniques called scaling and root planning to improve the condition. They may move on to laser therapy to repair the damaged gum tissue if necessary.
In the event that the disease has progressed too far, they can perform extractions and fit you with dental implants, a newer, permanent alternative to dentures.
With dental implants, the periodontist will surgically implant titanium posts permanently into your jaw. These will serve to anchor new, custom-fabricated teeth that have a more natural appearance than dentures.
Don’t delay treatment if your dental clinic advises you seek out a periodontist. Selecting a periodontist, like choosing a dentist, is easily done through referrals from your friends, family, or even your family dentist. We all want to see you keep your teeth for a lifetime.
By: Dr. Holly Gregory
Dr. Holly Gregory is a family dentist and periodontist in Kingwood TX. When she’s not working on teeth (or blogging about them), Dr. Gregory is a busy mom of four children.