A periodontist is a dentist who has become a registered specialist in periodontics. They have completed a Bachelor degree in Dentistry (a 5-year full time course) and then done a Masters degree (a three year full-time course) to then gain specialist registration with the Dental Council.
Periodontal diseases are serious infections of the gums and can affect the bone, which supports the teeth. The two forms of periodontal disease are called gingivitis and periodontitis and are of bacterial origin.
Gingivitis is an infection affecting the surface of the gums. The effects of gingivitis are largely reversible with appropriate care.
Periodontitis affects the deeper supporting tissues with permanent damage to the ligament, which attaches the teeth to the bone. If these infections are left untreated they can lead to progressive bone loss, tooth mobility (loose teeth) and eventual tooth loss.
Periodontitis is common – the mild to moderate forms affect 30% plus of the adult population and the more severe form affects 8.5% of all adults in the USA. The incidence appears to vary in different populations.
There are established guidelines that classify the severity of periodontal disease and who you should see to treat it appropriately. In the first instance you can ask your dentist whether you have a problem and how severe it is.
What causes periodontal diseases?
Periodontal diseases are caused by bacterial plaque, which collects on the teeth and gums are brushed and flossed incorrectly.
Areas that are missed become affected. The bacterial plaque produces toxins and enzymes that destroy the attachment of the gum to the tooth, and then the supporting bone. If the bacterial plaque is not removed, it can calcify, then called calculus.
Daily oral hygiene with effective brushing, and flossing can help prevent periodontal disease.
The severity of your bodies response to the plaque build-up on your teeth dictates whether you get the more simple form, gingivitis or with a more aggressive response, one of the forms of periodontitis.
There are a number of risk factors that pre-dispose people to gum disease.
There is a genetic basis for the disease and you may inherit gum disease from your parents.
The incidence of gum disease is significantly higher in smokers than non-smokers. Also, gum disease is harder to treat in smokers than non-smokers – we encourage smokers to try and give up as part of the treatment process.
Other factors that can affect the periodontal tissues are stress, some medications, pregnancy, medical conditions such as diabetes and several other factors.
You may have one or more of the risk factors that pre-dispose you to periodontal disease – this is normally identified at your initial consultation appointment.
What may I see or notice that would alert me to the fact that I have gum disease?
- Bleeding and swollen gums are common to both forms of periodontal disease, gingivitis the minor form & periodontitis the severe form. With periodontitis you will also see one or more of the following
- Gum shrinkage & the loss of gum tissue between your teeth
- Loose teeth
- Teeth that have moved creating spaces between your teeth
- Bad taste or bad breath
- Gum abscesses
How can periodontal diseases be treated?
Periodontal disease should not be taken lightly and cannot, in general, be self treated without professional help. Most of the “wonder cures” sold over the counter are ineffective for anything but the mildest form of the disease.
Frequently, these self-treatments only treat the symptoms while the infection progresses in the deeper tissues.
A simple form of periodontal infection can be treated by dentists but advanced disease should be treated by a specialist periodontist. If the disease is diagnosed early and the supporting bone is not significantly involved, non-surgical treatment by a dentist or periodontist is often enough.
In most cases the initial treatment will be what is referred to as non-surgical scaling and root planing. If there is significant gum or bone loss, surgical treatment may also be required.
In situations where you have advanced disease and also require extensive filling work or crowns as well as tooth replacement, several specialists from different fields may work together with your dentist to get a good result. If there is too much bone lost from around a tooth and it cannot be saved, implants can be used to replace missing teeth.
Once your gum disease has been stabilized you enter a maintenance phase – stopping it from coming back. Normally you would see one of our hygienists for this part of treatment. We offer homecare instruction to optimise your homecare regime. Generally, the better your homecare the less need you have for hygienist maintenance care. The frequency of this care will be 3, 4 or 6 monthly.
What do I need to do?
Treating periodontal disease is a partnership between you and your professional team – dentist, periodontist & hygienist.
We ask that you
- Make every effort to improve and optimise your homecare
- If you are a smoker make a positive effort to give up or cut back
- Report any change in your medical history
- Have hygienist based maintenance care – otherwise the infection may recurr
- Attend your dentist regularly for necessary restorative treatment
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