The work that a periodontist does is closely linked to that of a dentist but at the same time, it is fundamentally different.
Your dentist will manage routine checkups, clean your teeth, remove teeth if necessary and generally provide you with ongoing oral health education (such as telling you to floss every day!).
A dentist serves as something of a general practitioner for your oral health.
They provide maintenance of the teeth and are able to examine for and diagnose diseases and other issues.
What is a periodontist?
A periodontist is much more specialised.
They only treat the gums and the bones that support the teeth.
In fact, the name periodontist is derived from the word periodontium, which is the name for the specialised tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth, including all of the soft tissue – more commonly known as the gums – as well as the periodontal ligaments and bones.
The entire periodontal structure is what holds your teeth in place and periodontists are experts in treating the specific diseases that affect this area, as well as identifying and addressing their causes.
The periodontium is a sensitive area.
However, periodontists specialise in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease.
They have extended training in this specific area, including three additional years of education beyond dental school.
They will remain fully up to speed in the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, which is constantly developing, and they and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures such as the placement of dental implants.
A periodontist, therefore, is usually the person that diagnoses the nature and severity of gum disease.
From there, they are able to work with you and manage your case, no matter the severity of the issue or the complexity of your medical history.
What does a dentist do?
A general dentist will do all they can to help prevent these types of diseases from occurring.
Of course, they’ll provide you with advice and direction on your cleaning routine, but they can also perform ‘deeper’ cleanings and they can prescribe antibiotic medications where necessary.
Case by Case
For more routine cases, they will work towards treating any disease of the soft tissue by performing cleaning procedures and prescribing the correct medications.
They will ensure that you are fully educated and equipped to prevent future problems from occurring.
For the more problematic cases, such as severe gum disease or patients with complex medical histories, periodontists offer a wide range of treatments, from scaling and root planing, where the infected surface of the root is cleaned, to root surface debridement, in which damaged tissue is removed.
There is also a range of surgical procedures that a periodontist can perform to treat the most severe gum problems and they are specially trained in the placement, maintenance, and repair of dental implants.
Dentists and periodontists perform very different tasks, but each profession is ultimately dedicated to the same goal: working to improve the oral health of every patient they see.