What is a Periodontist?
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the soft tissues of the mouth and the underlying jawbone which supports the teeth. A dentist must first graduate from an accredited dental school before undertaking an additional three years of study within a periodontology residency training program, in order to qualify as a periodontist.
The primary focus of this residency training is on both surgical and non surgical management of periodontal disease and the placement of dental implants.
In addition to the 3-year residency program to obtain a Certificate in Periodontics and Implant Therapy, a periodontist can opt to pursue Diplomate status by successfully completing and passing rigorous written and oral exams administered by the American Board of Periodontology. Dr. Kenneth Gluck has successfully pursued this endeavor and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology. During his training, Dr. Gluck also pursued and completed a Masters in Dental Science degree.
Conditions Treated by a Periodontist
The periodontist is mainly concerned with preventing the onset of gum disease (periodontal disease), diagnosing conditions affecting the gums and jawbone, and treating gingivitis, periodontitis, and bone loss. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition and the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world.
The periodontist is able to diagnose and treat many different forms of gum disease.
The most common conditions treated by the periodontist are:
Gingivitis – This is the characterized by inflammation of the gums which may or may not be signified by pain and bleeding (this is reversible and there is no negative affect to the bone yet).
Mild/Moderate Periodontitis – When the generalized loss of attachment of the soft tissues are measured between 1-4 mm, it is classified as mild or moderate periodontitis (gum disease).
Severe (Advanced) Periodontitis – When loss of attachment exceeds 5mm; significant bone loss may occur causing migration or loss of teeth.
Missing teeth – When teeth are missing as a result of bone loss, the periodontist can implant prosthetic teeth. These teeth are anchored to the jawbone and restore functionality to the mouth.
Treatments Performed by a Periodontist
The periodontist is able to perform a wide range of treatments to halt the progression of gum disease, replace missing teeth and make the appearance of the smile more aesthetically pleasing.
Here are some of the treatments commonly performed by the periodontist:
Implant placement – When a tooth or several teeth are missing, the periodontist is able to create a natural-looking replacement by anchoring a prosthetic tooth to the jawbone.
Bone grafting – Dental implants can only be placed if there is sufficient bone to retain the implant and withstand chewing forces. If bone loss has occurred, bone grafting is an excellent way to add or “grow” bone so that an implant may be properly secured.
Osseous Surgery ("Gum Surgery") - this general term can entail surgical access to remove bacteria along the roots of the teeth, recontour the soft and hard tissues to facilitate periodontal health, and/or regenerate lost supporting structures to the teeth.
Periodontal Plastic Surgery – As gums recede due to periodontitis, the teeth may appear longer causing a “toothy" smile. The periodontist can perform a gum graft to augment the lost soft tissue and create a more esthetic smile. Alternatively, a patient can also present with too much gum tissue - a "gummy" smile - and require removal of hard and/or soft tissue to create a beautiful symmetrical smile.
Crown lengthening – Usually due to a cracked or decayed tooth, the general dentist can be left with little or no tooth structure above the gum line to retain a new crown. In order to expose more of the natural tooth below the gum line (and possibly below the bone level), the periodontist can remove some of the surrounding soft and/or hard tissue to allow the general dentist more tooth structure to work with so that a new crown can be properly placed and retained in the mouth.
The periodontist is a highly skilled dental health professional who is able to diagnose and treat many commonly occurring soft tissue and bone problems in the oral cavity.
Be sure to ask your periodontist if you have any questions or concerns.