If you ever had a medical issue affecting you (like a heart or skin condition), you probably didn’t think twice about seeing a doctor who specializes in that field. You’d set up an appointment with a dermatologist or cardiologist.
When you have an issue with your oral health, the same should hold. If you’re exhibiting severe gum disease symptoms, your best chance is to see a periodontist.
But how do you know when it’s appropriate to see a periodontist and when it’s OK to see a general dentist? There are usually a few tell-tale signs that it’s time to visit a periodontal specialist.
What is a Periodontist?
A periodontist is a dental specialist in treating diseases of the gums and other supporting structures of the teeth. Other names for this type of dentist are periodontists, gum specialists, or oral surgeons. These people possess skills to keep the mouth clean and healthy by getting rid of bacteria that cause bad breath.
You might want to think of a periodontist as a general dentist plus. Like the dentist you see for your semi-annual checkup, a periodontist has graduated from dental school. They then trained for three years beyond basic dental school, in a periodontal residency or post-graduate program. During that residency or program, the dentist focuses on the treatment of gum or periodontal disease.
What Are Common Reasons for Seeing a Periodontist?
If you’ve had a toothache, you know the importance of good oral health. As your dentist can tell you, gum disease is one of the most common causes of tooth loss and tooth decay. Yet, patients who suffer from chronic tooth pain do not realize the possibility that their dentist could refer them to a periodontist.
Knowing about gum disease doesn’t always mean you know what a periodontist does. If this is the case, here are some reasons your dentist might refer you to a periodontist:
Gum Health At Risk
Seeing a periodontist and getting treated isn’t a one-and-done deal. Even after undergoing periodontal surgery or another effective treatment, seeing a periodontist for regular follow-up appointments is a must. You can go back to your general dentist, but the periodontist who treated your gum disease will understand your condition best and will know how to best handle any complications that may arise or what to do if the disease recurs.
YOUR GUMS ARE BLEEDING AND RED
Gum bleeding can be caused by a variety of factors. During their cycle or pregnancy, some women observe that their gums are particularly sensitive and bleed readily. Brushing your teeth with too much pressure and force might cause the gums to bleed more regularly.
However, if your gums are frequently red, inflamed, or bleeding, it could be a symptom of gum disease in its early or more advanced stages. When tartar and plaque accumulate on the gums and just beneath the gum line and become irritated.
If you’re concerned about bleeding gums, seeing a periodontal specialist can be a good idea. It will give you a chance to deal with the problem in its earlier stages.
YOU’VE NOTICED OTHER CHANGES IN YOUR GUMS
Although bleeding or irritated gums are often early signs of gum disease, the condition can also cause other changes to the gum tissue as it advances.
One of those changes is known as the gingival recession. When your gums recede, they pull away from your teeth, exposing the roots.
Gum recession can make your teeth feel more sensitive, as the root is exposed and no longer protected by the gums. Having receding gums is also often a cosmetic concern for people. When the roots of the teeth are visible, they look longer, which can make you feel self-conscious.
Often, a periodontal specialist will perform procedures such as the pinhole technique, to reposition the gum tissue and minimize any gingival recession. When gum recession is severe, your dentist may use one or more of the following procedures to restore the health of your gums. Gum disease treatments are given in conjunction with these receding gum treatments.
Teeth with a significant amount of decay may require a root canal, but they will almost certainly need a crown. A dentist can place the crown, remove diseased teeth, and examine gum tissues to see if further treatment from a periodontist is required.
Another sign that it’s time to see a periodontal specialist is if you’ve started to notice unwanted changes in your teeth. As the gums become more and more irritated and begin to pull back away from the teeth. The teeth can become loose in the mouth. Teeth can change position, making your bite uneven or causing you discomfort when you chew.
In the most advanced stages, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss. Seeing a periodontist as soon as possible after you notice any changes to your gums or teeth can help you keep all of your teeth.
CHRONIC BAD BREATH or Halitosis
Everyone gets bad breath from time to time. It could be due to a particularly garlicky dinner you had the night before or because you drank too much coffee.
However, if bad breath is an ongoing problem and you’re frequently embarrassed by it, it could be a symptom of something worse, such as gum disease.
The bacteria that cause gum disease can also produce a foul odor in your mouth. If nothing seems to help your foul breath, get in touch with a periodontist.
Recommended By Most Family Dentists
At this point, you might be wondering why you can’t just see your regular family dentist if you’re concerned about your gums. Many general and family dentists can indeed assist with the early stages of gum disease. If you’re concerned about the health of both your teeth and gums, seeing your family dentist is likely to be your first step.
There are several reasons why your dentist may suggest you see a periodontist. It’s common practice for family dentists to refer patients who have certain chronic conditions to a specialist if there’s a possible link between the condition and gum disease. Your dentist may recommend you see a periodontist as a precaution. You don’t need to have any symptoms of gum disease at the moment.
One of the main reasons why you would see a periodontist is if your family dentist recommended it. A general dentist can usually help you when you have a mild case of gum disease, such as gingivitis. But, more advanced cases require the skill and experience of a trained periodontist.
Your dentist may also refer you to a periodontist if your gum disease meets certain criteria. For example, if you are under age 35, or have pockets that are deeper than 5mm, you’ll most likely get referred to a specialist. Your dentist should refer you to a periodontist if you:
- have clear symptoms of an aggressive case of periodontal disease
- display signs of considerable gum recession
- can not be treated by your current dentist
Miami-based periodontist Dr. John Paul Gallardo offers patients a variety of gum disease treatment options. If you think it’s time to see a periodontal specialist, call our office number today or fill out the contact form below.