While most people are familiar with what a dentist does, they aren’t always aware of all the different dental specialties that exist. Just as medical doctors can specialize in treating different parts of the body, like the lungs, heart, or feet, dentists can also focus on an area of the mouth or specific types of treatments.
If you have been referred to a periodontist, you may wonder what makes them different from a general dentist. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a General Dentist?
A general dentist gets a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) depending on their educational program. Usually, they need to complete 3 years of undergraduate schooling, plus an additional 4 years of dental school.
Once they have passed their board exam, dentists are able to provide dental care to their patients. General dentists offer many procedures, such as fillings, tooth whitening, crowns, bridges, dentures, extractions, and more. More specialized care, however, is typically performed by a dentist with advanced training in a specific type of dentistry.
What is a Periodontist?
A periodontist is a dental specialist, having completed 3 additional years of training in caring for the gums and jaw. They take on complicated cases that involve gum disease, dental implants, and oral inflammation.
Often, general dentists will refer their patients to a periodontist for specialized care. For example, a general dentist would send their patient to a periodontist if they have advanced gum disease or need an implant. While your dentist can offer some of these procedures to you, they will reach out to a periodontist when you need specialized care.
What Are The Similarities?
Both general dentists and periodontists have the same foundation of education in oral healthcare. They both receive a DDS or DMD and appear before the American Dental Association (ADA) for board certification. These professionals know how to treat a variety of oral conditions and prescribe treatment accordingly.
What Are The Differences Between a Dentist and a Periodontist?
The difference between a dentist and a periodontist is that general dentists see patients with all types of oral health care needs. Periodontists have additional training and may only see patients that need their dental specialty. Some periodontists focus solely on treatments related to the gums and refer all other cases to general dentists or other dental specialists. Others offer general dentistry services as well.
When You Need to See a Periodontist
There are several reasons you might need to see a periodontist. The top 5 are:
1. Excessive Bleeding Gums
While bleeding gums can be normal, excessive bleeding and tenderness are signs of trouble. It’s possible to cause your gums to bleed if you use too much pressure while brushing or you don’t floss regularly. However, a buildup of tartar and plaque can cause irritation and bleeding (gingivitis), ultimately leading to gum disease.
2. Gum Recession
As you age, your gums can recede, exposing the nerves of the teeth. When the nerves are exposed, it can cause you extreme pain while brushing or eating hot or cold foods. A periodontist can perform a gum graft procedure to cover the nerves and alleviate the pain you are experiencing.
3. Loose Teeth
When your gums are excessively irritated and inflamed, it can cause them to pull away from your teeth, allowing them to become loose. Adult teeth only become loose if there are major dental concerns. See your dentist right away if you notice a tooth is moving.
If you lose one or more teeth, you need to replace them with a bridge, dentures, or implants with crowns. Leaving the space open from a missing tooth ultimately leads to major problems like bone loss and gum recession.
4. Bad Breath
Of course, everyone deals with bad breath when they first get up or after eating something potent. Chronic bad breath is much worse. No matter how much you brush, floss, or swish, the odor is pungent. Bacteria can collect on your gums and cause the foul smell to linger no matter what you do.
Healthy gums will not retain foul odors. If you have halitosis (bad breath) you are likely dealing with gum disease that must be treated ASAP.
5. Referred By a Dentist
If your dentist refers you to a periodontist, then you should go as soon as possible. You have reached a point in your dental care that requires the attention of a specialist. Your dentist will work closely with the periodontist to provide you optimal care. Once the treatment is completed, you’ll return to your general dentist for hygiene and regular check-ups as usual.
Talk to A Periodontist
It’s important to make an appointment with a trusted periodontist if you are dealing with any symptoms of gum disease or have been referred by your dentist. Delaying treatment can cause you to lose teeth and need more expensive treatments later on.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a renowned, award-winning periodontist in the Miami area with over 25 years of experience. He offers advanced, cutting-edge treatments and specializes in dental implants. To schedule an appointment, call 305-547-8687 today.