Who is a periodontist and what is periodontal disease?
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, "...a periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. Periodontists are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease. In addition, they can perform cosmetic periodontal procedures to help you achieve the smile you desire. Often, dentists refer their patients to a periodontist when their periodontal disease is advanced. However, you don't need a referral to see a periodontist. In fact, there are occasions when you may choose to go directly to a periodontist or to refer a family member or friend to your own periodontist."
Periodontal disease is caused by plaque- a colorless, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce byproducts that can irritate the gums and cause chronic inflammation. Over time, the structures that provide support for the teeth can be seriously damaged.
How do you know if you are risk for periodontal disease?
Generally, people are unaware that they have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a silent, painless disease- similar to hypertension. Many begin to become cognisant of periodontal disease when they start to develop symptoms such as bad taste, bad breath, loose teeth, or migration (movement) of their front teeth. Periodontal disease is a chronic disease that won't resolve by itself. You must have active treatment to resolve it.
The method of treatment for periodontal disease depends upon how far the disease has progressed. Often non surgical treatment is the only treatment necessary to correct the problem in the early stages of periodontal disease. Scaling is the removal of plaque and calculus deposits on the roots of the teeth. Root planning is the smoothing of the root surfaces, which along with scaling, help the gums reattach to the teeth.
It is often very difficult for the dental hygienist or dentist to remove all the deposits from deeper sites. These "pockets" often become sites of infection, which generally lead to bone destruction. For these reasons, when periodontal disease is more advanced, periodontal surgery is a necessary part of treatment. The goals of surgery are to remove caculus ("tartar") from deeper pockets, to reduce the depth of the pocket, and to arrange the soft tissue into a shape that wil be easier to keep clean.
Sometimes during periodontal treatment bone can be regenerated.
There are a number of additional cosmetic periodontal procedures that are performed by periodontists to create more esthetic smiles. Soft tissue gingival (gum) grafts are used to cover areas of recession.
Dr. Meersand has much experience in performing many of these cosmetic procedures.
Drs. Heller & Meersand perform all the standard procedures in the treatment of periodontal disease. They employ all the most current methods and materials necessary to obtain optimal results. However, there are times that it becomes necessary to remove hopeless teeth so adjacent teeth are not further endangered by the spread of disease. When those times become necessary they can explain to you the benefits of replacing missing teeth with dental implants.
When should you see a periodontist? According to the American Academy of Periodontology, "if you value your oral as well as overall health, anytime is a good time to see a periodontist for a periodontal evaluation. Sometimes the only way to detect periodontal disease is through a periodontal evaluation. A periodontal evaluation may be especially important in the following situations: If you notice any symptoms of periodontal disease, including:
- gums that bleed easily, such as during brushing or flossing
- red, swollen or tender gums
- gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- persistent bad breath
- pus between the teeth and gums
- loose or separating teeth
- a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- if you are thinking of becoming pregnant. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby born too early and too small. In addition, about half of women experience "pregnancy gingivitis." However, women who have good oral hygiene and have no gingivitis before pregnancy are very unlikely to experience this condition.
- if you have a family member with periodontal disease. Research suggests that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can pass through saliva. This means the common contact of saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting the periodontal disease of another family member.
- if you have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis. Ongoing research is showing that periodontal disease may be linked to these conditions. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel into the blood stream and pose a threat to other parts of the body. Healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.
- if you feel that your teeth are too short or that your smile is too "gummy." Or, if you are missing one or more of your teeth and are interested in a long-lasting replacement option.
- if you are not satisfied with your current tooth replacement option, such as a bridge or dentures, and may be interested in dental implants.
- have a sore or irritation in your mouth that does not get better within two weeks.
Always remember, that in order to protect the periodontal health that you will obtain it is critical that you be seen on a regular maintenance basis. Good oral hygiene is essential to keep periodontal disease from recurring or becoming more serious. We believe in the importance of periodic preventive care. As a service, we will send you a written reminder when it is time for you to return 2 weeks before your scheduled visit.
Use the above sources to help you obtain more information on periodontal disease and treatment, or you can also go to our "Education and Information Links" page.