January 20, 2020

What Is A Periodontist

We’ve explored one dental specialty, endodontics, and here we venture into the world of periodontology. Periodontists specialize in the treatment of the structures (primarily the gums and gum tissue) that support your teeth. They also specialize and study the diseases and conditions that might affect these structures.

Periodontists, in addition to completing four years of dental school, also complete three additional years of clinical training in periodontology. Severe gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, and periodontists are the specialists who can help, making them an important part in some dental journeys and integral to maintaining good oral health.

While general dentists are able to handle early onset of gum disease some cases require a more specialized eye. If you ever need to seek treatment for gum health, a periodontist will work directly with your dentist to establish the best treatment plan.

Why Do You Need to See a Periodontist?

Have you noticed in your dental appointments that your dentist will check your teeth and start assigning numbers that are recorded in your chart? The odds are pretty good that this has happened and you might be wondering what exactly they’re doing. The short and simple answer is that they’re measuring the space between a tooth and the gum tissue next to it.

The reason that most dentists today will check this is because it can be a good measure of the health of your gums. With a recent study finding that nearly 50% of adults over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease, it’s important to keep a regular eye on all aspects of your oral health.

Early intervention with gum disease is important as it allows for treatment that can help preserve your overall health by ensuring your oral health is on track. While your family dentist might be able to handle some early gum disease problems, if it’s advanced beyond a certain point they’re likely to refer you to a local periodontist.

Want to know how you can help monitor your own oral health? Between your regularly scheduled dental appointments watch for signs in your daily life that might be indicators of gum disease. These signs might include swollen or bleeding gums, an overall sense that your teeth are loose, or overall pain and discomfort. If you experience any of these we recommend that you schedule an appointment with your dentist so that they can take a look and provide guidance.

What Procedures Does a Periodontist Perform?

Periodontists are well-trained in the treatment of periodontal disease, but what specifically do they do for patients? While there are a range of procedures both non-surgical and surgical, we highlight the most common below.

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planning is a careful cleaning of the root surfaces. The cleaning is performed to remove plaque and tartar from deep periodontal pockets.

Root Surface Debridement

Root surface debridement is the removal of the damaged tissue from the root surface.

Regenerative Procedures

In some cases of severe gum disease a patient experiences a loss of tissue or bone. A periodontist can help regenerate some of the lost bone or tissue by using bone grafts or tissue-stimulating proteins to encourage a bodies natural ability to regenerate bone and tissue.


As we mention often, the goal of modern dentistry is to preserve the natural teeth for patients whenever possible. There are a great team of dentists, periodontists, and endodontists who are ready to help you on your journey to great oral health.

It’s no secret that having good oral health plays a key role in having good overall health. Part of ensuring that you have good oral health is developing a hygiene routine that is appropriate for your oral health needs. In addition to your daily routine, you should regularly see a dentist for cleanings and checkups.

For some, regular cleanings are part of a yearly routine, but for others scheduling a dental appointment sometimes slips off the radar. While the American Dental Association (ADA) doesn’t directly specify the required number of visits, the recommendation is once or twice a year.

Regular visits likely include prophylaxis (a dental cleaning) to remove any plaque or tartar buildup and to have a checkup with your dentist. There are issues that might occur in your mouth that aren’t immediately visible to the naked eye. Having a professional check your teeth and mouth can help prevent issues before they arise.

We also recommend getting X-Rays done once a year to monitor your oral health from year to year. X-rays are also helpful in detecting the earliest beginnings of oral problems like cavities and gum disease that might not even be visible upon visual examination to your dentist.

What To Expect At My Dental Check-up

While many patients have lots of experience visiting a dentist, there are an equal number of patients who might be going for the first time in years. Dental fear and dental anxiety are real emotions that play a role in someone’s decision not to visit a dentist for regular cleanings. We recognize these as valid emotions and seek to provide reassurance and information about what to expect that help address concerns.

The first thing that happens, at least once a year, in a dental visit will be X-Rays. We mentioned above that X-rays provide a great way to check the health of your teeth and catch anything of note as early as possible—dental infection and decay between the teeth, for example.

After x-rays are taken your hygienist will likely start the cleaning. For patients who experience dental fear or anxiety, or who just need a little additional help to relax for the visit some dentists (like we do at Inland Family Dentistry) will offer patients nitrous oxide.

This mild sedation helps those patients who have anxiety or fear relax just enough to be comfortable during the appointment. It’s a safe method that is flushed from your system after the appointment by administering oxygen.

A primary goal at Inland Family Dentistry is to ensure the comfort of each patient throughout their entire visit so never hesitate to mention your feelings so that we can address your concerns or discomfort.

At some point during your visit, the dentist will come in to check your teeth. They’ll reference your X-rays, and talk to the hygienist and to you about your oral health. If there are any issues that are found with your teeth like cavities, gum disease, or others the dentist will discuss treatment options with you. If at any time during the visit you have questions to ask, those are always welcome.

After giving your teeth a professional cleaning, we’ll finish with a polish to make those pearly whites shine, and then you’ll be taken to our front desk and scheduled for upcoming visits. The importance of oral health and regular visits for preventative care shouldn’t be overlooked. We encourage you to find a dental home where you feel heard and are comfortable returning on a regular basis.