What Makes a Periodontist Different from a General Dentist?

Your regular dentist is a lot like your regular doctor. You see them both frequently for checkups and advice on maintaining your health. Your dentist is the one to visit for dental concerns such as discovering and treating cavities and gingivitis, fitting crowns and putting in fillings, performing simple extractions and many more of the procedures that keep our teeth and mouths healthy. And just as your general practitioner might refer you to a specialist if needed, your dentist might recommend a dental specialist called a periodontist like Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis for expert treatment of more serious periodontal conditions.

The word “periodontist” was coined from the Greek words for “around” and “tooth”—in other words, a practitioner whose specialty is the treatment of the supporting structures around our teeth. These structures include the gums, the bone tissue holding the tooth, and the connective tissue between tooth and bone. A degree in periodontology generally requires three additional years of post-doctoral study after dental school focused on the treatment of periodontal disease and cosmetic restorations.

What special care does a periodontist provide?

  • Diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease. Periodontitis is a disease of the gums and bones around the teeth caused by the body’s response to the bacteria in plaque. The earlier it is treated, the better. Untreated gum disease can lead to serious infection and tooth and bone loss.
  • Surgical care for periodontal disease. This might involve gum grafting for receding gums or regeneration therapy to restore bone tissue.
  • Debridement, scaling and root planing. These procedures remove excessive plaque and tartar from areas of the tooth above and below the gumline.
  • Monitoring interactions with other health conditions. If you have diabetes, heart disease or other systemic diseases, it’s a good idea to have a periodontal evaluation. Pregnant women can also benefit from an exam if they develop gum swelling and bleeding as a result of the changes caused by pregnancy hormones.
  • Implant placement. For those considering an implant, periodontists will make sure the underlying bone is healthy and has enough density for an implant, can build up the bone if needed, and will place the implant in the bone.

Your regular dentist is your first stop when taking care of your dental health. Gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, can usually be treated by your regular dentist or dental hygienist. But if you need a specialist for more advanced periodontal disease, if you have medical issues that interact with gum health, or if you are considering a dental implant, Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can provide you with the best possible care for your individual needs from the comfort of our San Mateo, CA office.

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