What does it cost to have a million-dollar smile? Thankfully, not a million dollars! Still, maintaining healthy teeth and gums is a job that requires constant vigilannce. The last thing you want are unhealthy gums that can no longer support your pearly whites. That’s why it is essential that you make visiting a periodontist (a gum specialist) a routine part of your preventative dental care.
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in treating diseases of the gum and the bone tissue that support the teeth. Gum specialists attend four years of dental school, then commit another two to three years to further training to become experts in their specialty, according to Perio.org.
In addition to treating periodontal diseases such as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (gum disease), a periodontist can also perform cosmetic procedures to enhance your smile.
Periodontitis can start subtly. Unlike a throbbing tooth that serves as a constant reminder that something is wrong, or a chipped tooth that sort of whistles when you talk, periodontitis – and its precursor, gingivitis – can creep in quietly, almost unnoticed.
You may notice your gums bleed when you brush your teeth in the mornings or after dinner. Or maybe you find yourself popping more mints than usual because your breath seems just a little… off.
Or there may be no noticeable outward signs of trouble at all.
Whether you see the telltale signs of gum disease or not, it’s a good idea to keep a standing annual appointment to get dental treatment with a periodontist near you to ensure both your teeth and your gums are healthy.
Unfortunately, ignoring problems with your gums or refusing to see a periodontist can lead to bad breath, tooth loss, and uncomfortable (and expensive) dental procedures down the line. Additionally, periodontal disease is also linked to an increase chance of heart disease and stroke since a break in the gum layer can allow bacteria from the mouth to infiltrate your bloodstream.
That’s a serious risk to your overall health that you really don’t have to take.
A periodontist uses several methods to treat gum disease treatment depending on the severity of the case:
Scaling and Root Planing (SRP)
SRP is the careful cleaning of the root surfaces of the teeth to remove dental plaque and dental tartar and to remove bacterial toxins by smoothing the root of the tooth. Scaling and root planing can be a great way to remove plaque that has stained the area of your teeth around the gum line.
Your gum specialist may recommend dental surgery if your gum tissue cannot be restored by non-surgical treatment.
Pocket reduction procedures – Also called gingival flap surgery, this is a procedure wherein the gum is separated from the tooth to allow deep cleaning of the tooth surface that lives below the gum line. Your periodontist will often order this procedure when gum pockets are greater than 5 millimeters in depth.
Regenerative procedures – This procedures involves aiding your gums and jawbone to regenerate lost tissue and bone by removing the bacteria from your gums to give your body a chance to heal and restore itself.
Crown lengthening - Dental crown lengthening is a procedure that often precedes getting dental crowns. It involves the removal of gum tissue, bone or both to expose more of a tooth's structure.
Soft tissue grafts – Soft tissue grafts are done to ensure exposed roots can be covered with gum tissue. So, a piece of tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth and grafted onto (connected to) your healthy gums tissue to cover exposed roots.
Your periodontist may perform laser gum therapy in conjunction with scaling and root planning treatment. A gum specialist will use a dental laser to remove diseased gum tissue and expose the root of your tooth. At that point, the scaling and root planning is done and the gum tissue sutured back together. Using laser dentistry can minimize bleeding, swelling and discomfort for the patient during surgery.
If you have lost one or more teeth to gum disease, your periodontist may recommend dental implants -- an artificial tooth root that's surgically implanted to hold a replacement tooth - or a dental bridge. Both serve to keep your remaining teeth in place and to help you maintain the shape of your face and your smile.
Some periodontists also perform cosmetic procedures such as ridge augmentation to restore the natural contour of your gums and jaw.
If you think you are showing signs of gum disease - swollen gums, bad breath, bleeding gums, a toothache, or even pus coming from your gums – schedule an appointment with a periodontist near you immediately. Get the dental treatment you need sooner rather than later. You will be much better off for it.