You know you need to make an appointment with the dentist every six months to maintain your oral health, but what about a periodontist? When it is time to see a periodontist, or what signs and symptoms indicate it’s time to make an appointment?
In answering that question, it’s important to understand the role a periodontist plays when it comes to maintaining a healthy mouth. While dentists typically focus on teeth, gums, and the general mouth area, periodontists focus on the structural makeup of your mouth — specifically the gums, supportive tissue, and bones that hold your teeth together.
For that reason, the primary role of a periodontist is to help patients who may exhibit signs of periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, or those who are already suffering from its effects. With four years of dentistry school plus an additional three years of postdoctoral training, periodontists can provide patients with medicinal and surgical solutions to treat, slow, or in some cases reverse the effects of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease generally refers to inflammation of the gums and supportive tissue. Though there are several conditions that exist under the umbrella of periodontal disease, the most common types are gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is a periodontal disease that results in red, swollen, and bleeding gums. Gingivitis is typically caused by the build of up plague or bacteria along the gum lines.
Though gingivitis can be a serious oral health issue, it can often be managed or reversed through improved oral hygiene efforts, such as regular brushing and flossing. However, if left untreated, it can lead to long-term and irreversible oral health issues.
Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease that can often occur if gingivitis goes untreated. In this case, plaque and bacteria can grow under the gumline and cause significant damage to the tissue and bone that support the teeth. As the tissue or bone is destroyed, teeth can shift become loose, or need to be removed.
Symptoms and Signs of Periodontal Disease
In some cases, periodontal disease can have relatively few symptoms, or the symptoms that do exist are mild and may not lead patients to seek the care of a periodontist. However, delayed treatment can have lasting effects, and therefore it’s important to speak to your dentist or periodontist if you experience the following:
- Red and swollen gums
- Gums that bleed when brushing or flossing
- Receding gum lines
- Tooth sensitivity, which can be caused when the sensitive part of the tooth is exposed due to a receding gum line.
- Pain when chewing
- Bad breath
- Changes in the position or alignment of your teeth
- Loose teeth
Risk factors for periodontal disease
Periodontal disease can be the result of poor oral hygiene practices, but there are other causes that can place a patient at a higher risk for oral health problems. The following can increase the likelihood of experiencing gum disease at some point in your life:
- Certain medications
- Broken or poorly fitting dental implants (e.g., bridges)
- Hormonal shifts
- Cracked or otherwise damaged fillings
If you think you may be at risk for or exhibiting signs of periodontal disease, it’s important to work closely with your dentist or periodontist to address the issue. Though many dentists can work with patients in the early stages of gum disease, a periodontist can treat move advanced cases or help high-risk patients. As such, your dentist may refer to a periodontist who can offer specialized treatment solutions.
There are many ways to prevent and treat periodontal disease, and patients who seek the assistance of a trained periodontist have the best chances of saving their smiling and maintaining a healthy mouth.
If you are concerned about the health of your gums or think you may have periodontal disease, contact us today to set up a consultation.