Frequently Asked Questions

PPC-0357fWhat is a periodontist?

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, including three additional years of education following dental school. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures. Periodontists often treat more problematic periodontal cases, such as those with severe gum disease or a complex medical history.

Who should see a periodontist?

Patients who present with moderate or severe levels of periodontal disease, or patients with more complex cases, will be best managed by a partnership between the dentist and periodontist.

In addition, periodontists offer treatment for gum recession and cosmetic periodontal procedures to help improve your smile. Patients who are interested in dental implants would also benefit from the expert training and skill of a periodontist.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a serious inflammatory disorder that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth.  It begins when bacteria or plaque (a sticky film that forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.  As the disease progresses, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and the teeth can become loose and start to shift.

How can I tell if I have gum disease?

Gum disease is often silent and many people do not develop symptoms until their disease has reached an advanced stage.  Warning signs of gum disease include the following:

  • Red, swollen or painful gums
  • Bleeding when brushing, flossing or eating hard foods
  • Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer
  • Loose or separating teeth, changes in the way your teeth fit together
  • Persistent bad breath

Why do I have gum disease since I brush and floss my teeth everyday?

People who have gum disease usually have risk factors that predispose them to developing the disease.  Risk factors include genetics or family history, smoking, diabetes, stress and clenching or grinding your teeth.  It is also important to make sure you are effectively removing the plaque from your teeth when you are brushing and flossing and seeing your dentist for regular cleanings.  Your periodontist will evaluate you for potential risk factors for gum disease and make recommendations regarding brushing and flossing.

How often should I have my teeth cleaned?

If you have a history of gum disease or certain risk factors for gum disease, you may need to have your teeth cleaned more frequently than someone who does not have gum disease.  Most patients who have undergone treatment for gum disease need to be seen every 3 months for cleanings.  It is important to remember that gum disease is not cured but it can be controlled and regular dental cleanings (also called periodontal maintenance) are essential in maintaining the health of your gums.  Your periodontist will perform an individual evaluation to determine how often you need to have your teeth cleaned.

What is the relationship between gum disease and heart disease?

Research has shown that periodontal disease is associated with several other diseases. For a long time it was thought that bacteria was the factor that linked periodontal disease to other disease in the body; however, more recent research demonstrates that inflammation may be responsible for the association. Therefore, treating inflammation may not only help manage periodontal diseases but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions.

Why should I replace a missing tooth?

Your teeth are designed to work together when you chew, speak and smile.  When one or more teeth are missing, normal function can become difficult.  If teeth are missing for a long period of time, the other teeth can begin to shift and cause changes in your bite.  Replacing teeth with dental implants is an effective way to preserve your function and improve your appearance.

Can I have a dental implant if I’ve been missing a tooth or teeth for a long time?

Even if you have been missing teeth for many years, you are likely a candidate for dental implants.  In some cases, bone grafting may be necessary before dental implants can be placed.  Your periodontist will evaluate your jawbone and may order a three-dimensional CT scan to determine an individualized treatment plan for dental implant treatment.

Can I have my dental implants and teeth the same day?

In some cases, dental implants can be placed on the same day a tooth is removed; however proper planning is important to ensure an optimal outcome.  Your periodontist will discuss possible implant-related treatment options along with the pros and cons of each approach.

Why are my teeth so sensitive?

Teeth can become sensitive for many reasons including root exposure due to gum recession, gum disease or aggressive tooth brushing.  Tooth decay, worn fillings, cracked teeth and clenching and grinding can also lead to tooth sensitivity.  Be sure to discuss this with your periodontist and she will suggest appropriate treatment options to reduce your sensitivity.