Wonder What a Periodontist Does? Here are the Distinctions
The main difference between what a periodontist does and what a dentist does begins with their education. Periodontists take an extra three years of school after dental college, to receive a Master of Dental Surgery degree. There, they study a specialized form of dentistry, focusing on the structure of teeth and how to treat diseases related to tooth structure. Periodontists focus on two main areas.
The structure of the teeth begins with the gums, not surprisingly a periodontist's job begins with keeping gums healthy. There are a large number of different diseases that affect the gums, but the majority of them fall into two categories:
- Gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, caused by plaque. While painful, it is not actually destructive to the tooth structure. The treatment of milder cases of gingivitis can be performed by a regular dentist, with a practice called scaling: cleaning plaque from the surface of the teeth using various dental instruments. Periodontists, on the other hand, performa procedure called root planing, or root surface debridgement. This involves removing plaque buildup from the roots of the teeth, as well as under the gums. It's a more thorough and involved process, which not only helps rid the mouth of plaque, but makes teeth and gums easier to keep clean in the future.
- Periodontitis - If gingivitis is left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis. While gingivitis is non-destructive, periodontitis involves a degrading of the tooth sockets and can lead to the loss of teeth. Periodontists can treat the early stages of periodontitis with scaling and debridgement, just like with gingivitis. But if the degrading is more advanced, surgery may be necessary. There are a number of different surgical options available, but with any treatment, regular follow-ups and ongoing periodontal maintenance are required, in order to ensure the disease does not return.
The other main focus of a periodontist's practice is the placement and maintenance of dental implants. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root, made of titanium, that serves to support a replacement tooth or a bridge. What a periodontist does to prepare a patient's mouth for a replacement tooth is a long and involved process, which can take several months and multiple visits. During this time, they may give their patients a temporary artificial tooth, until the implant is ready for the permanent replacement.
The dental implant is generally shaped like a screw, and, once installed, will slowly bond with the existing bone over two to six months, as an anchor that will hold the artificial tooth in place. This also helps prevent bone loss underneath the teeth, and keeps the rest of the patient's teeth and jaw healthy as well. When the implant is ready, a dentist then creates and installs the permanent replacement tooth. With the right dental implant, a replacement tooth can look, feel, and function just like a normal tooth, and with proper care and maintenance, it can last the rest of a patient's life.