Periodontics is a specialty area of dentistry that focuses on maintaining the tissues that surround and support the tooth, including diagnosing, preventing and treating gum disease that can affect the underlying jawbone and increase the risk of tooth loss. Periodontists must complete several years of additional training to obtain the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively prevent and manage these issues.
Periodontists are skilled in many types of treatments, including bone and gum grafting, dental implant placement to replace teeth and secure dentures, in-depth cleaning to remove tartar and plaque (called root planing and scaling), crown lengthening, cosmetic plastic surgery, elimination of “gummy “ smiles, bite adjustments and nightguards, and ridge augmentation to replace lost or missing tissues. Periodontists can also perform extraction of wisdom teeth and teeth that have even out the gum line during gum disease become loose or compromised due to advanced gum disease (called periodontitis).
Gum disease occurs in stages, and in its earliest stages, it can be difficult to detect. Periodontists are trained to identify these early stages and to assess the extent of the disease so they can recommend the most appropriate care for the best possible results. The earliest stage is called gingivitis. During this stage, the gums become inflamed and tender and may bleed, especially when brushed. Sometimes, there are few or even no symptoms during this stage, and without proper evaluation, the disease can continue to spread and cause additional damage. As the disease progresses, disease-causing bacteria move down the tooth surface, often protected by hardened plaque. The bacteria invade the tooth root space, causing inflammation and destroying the jaw bone tissue that supports the teeth. During this stage, the teeth can become loose and eventually fall out. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the U.S., and periodontists are able to spot disease and treat it before tooth loss occurs.
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