What is a periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are also experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.

Periodontists often treat more problematic periodontal cases, such as those with severe gum disease or a complex medical history. Periodontists offer a wide range of treatments, such as scaling and root planing (in which the infected surface of the root is cleaned) or root surface debridement (in which damaged tissue is removed). They can also treat patients with severe gum problems using a range of surgical procedures. In addition, periodontists are specially trained in the placement, maintenance, and repair of dental implants.

During the first visit, the periodontist usually reviews the patient’s complete medical and dental histories. It is extremely important for the periodontist to know if any medications are being taken or if the patient is being treated for any condition that can affect periodontal care, such as heart disease, diabetes, or pregnancy.

The periodontist examines the gums, checks to see if there is any gum line recession, assesses how the teeth fit together when biting, and checks the teeth to see if any are loose. The periodontist will also take a small measuring instrument called a probe and place it between the teeth and gums to determine the depth of those spaces, known as periodontal pockets; this helps the periodontist assess the health of the gums. X-rays may also be taken to observe the health of the bone below the gum line.

Who should see a periodontist?

Some patients’ periodontal needs can be managed by the general dentist. However, as more and more patients are exhibiting signs of periodontal disease, coupled with research that suggests a relationship between periodontal disease and other chronic diseases of aging, periodontal treatment may necessitate a greater understanding and increased level of expertise by a trained specialist. Patients who present with moderate or severe levels of periodontal disease, or patients with more complex cases, will be best managed by a partnership between the dentist and periodontist.

When can I return to work or school following my surgery?

Depending on the procedure, most patients can return to work or school the next day after a surgery. We recommend that you plan to stay at home and rest the same day following surgical treatment. Your doctor will let you know if more than one day of rest is recommended.

Will it hurt?

We will be as gentle as possible. The periodontal exam typically is completed with little or no discomfort.

Do I need X-rays?

We will need current radiographs (x-rays) to see disease not otherwise visible. If your referring dentist has taken x-rays, you may request that they be forwarded to us.

Will my insurance cover the cost?

Dental insurance policies often cover periodontal treatment. Please bring all medical and dental benefit information and cards to your examination appointment. Upon request, we can submit a claim to predetermine your insurance benefits; however, this is not required by most plans.

When will I go back to my General Dentist?

Our office and your dentist will work closely together to manage your periodontal needs. If crowns and fillings are needed, your dentist will provide them. Regular visits to your dentist are an important part of periodontal maintenance.

Do you have a radiologist to read my computed tomography (CT scan)?

Yes. We have a radiologist in our office. Our radiologist is a dentist who specializes in diagnosing disease and injury through the use of medical/ dental imaging techniques such as x-rays and computed tomography (CT). Because some of these imaging techniques involve the use of radiation, adequate training in and understanding of radiation safety and protection is important. Importantly, our staff members are personally trained by our radiologist to meet the standard and to ensure your safety.

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