A “Periodontist”? The word “periodontal” literally means “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease also known as “gum disease” or pyorrhea, is a chronic bacterial (plaque) infection that damages the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Plaque left long enough can become calcified (called calculus or tartar). Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. More importantly, research links periodontal infection to more serious problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and pre-term, low-birth-weight babies. As ongoing research continues to define how periodontal disease is linked to these and other health problems, good oral health is essential. As you can see, good periodontal health is a key component of a healthy body!
Many factors such as oral hygiene habits, genetics, stress, general health conditions, medications and tobacco use may have contributed to your disease and can influence treatment effectiveness and disease recurrence. Periodontists are dental professionals who specialize in treating periodontal disease. Your periodontist has recommended a tailored treatment plan to repair the damage, restore health and improve the function and/or esthetics of your smile.
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacteria in the form of a sticky, colorless plaque that constantly forms on your teeth. Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth like a turtleneck around your neck. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed, forming “pockets” around the teeth. Over time, these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space for bacteria to live. As bacteria develop around the teeth, they can accumulate and advance under the gum tissue. These deep pockets collect even more bacteria, resulting in further bone and tissue loss and eventual tooth loss.
Periodontist (Gum Specialist)
Dentists who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease and replacement of teeth by the use of implants, are Periodontists. In addition to four years of dental school, your periodontist has had further training and an advanced degree in this specialty. The periodontist will provide you with different treatment options that range from deep cleaning of teeth and gums (scaling and root planing) to surgical removal of infection to surgical procedures that may restore soft tissue and bone damaged by periodontal disease. Also, if a tooth (or teeth) is lost, a periodontist can replace it with implants.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling is a type of cleaning that removes plaque and calculus (tartar) from the teeth at and below the gum line. Root Planing smooths root surfaces so the supportive tissue can better reattach to the root surface. Usually local anesthesia is used because this procedure goes deeper than a regular cleaning. Scaling and root planing can be considered initial therapy (where surgical treatment will eventually be necessary) or definitive therapy in itself. This procedure is commonly referred to as “deep cleaning”.
Pocket Depth Reduction (flap/osseous) Surgery
Is recommended because you have pockets that are too deep to clean with daily at-home oral hygiene and a professional care program. During this procedure, your periodontist folds back the gum tissue (flap) and removes the disease-causing bacteria before securing the tissue into place. By folding back the gum tissue, the periodontist gains access for better visibility to the diseased root surfaces and bone. Often, irregular surfaces of the damaged bone are smoothed (osseous surgery) to limit areas where disease-causing bacteria can hide. This allows the gum tissue to better reattach to healthy bone. Often, some of the gum tissue is removed for pocket reduction.
This procedure involves removing an overgrowth of gum tissue. Removing excess gum tissue eliminates the space where bacteria can collect, making it easier for you to keep teeth and gums clean. This procedure also creates a less “gummy” smile and can create symmetry and beauty in the gum line prior to restorative care (crowns, veneers, etc.).
Is recommended because the bone supporting your teeth has been destroyed by bacteria (plaque). These procedures can reverse some of the damage by regenerating lost bone and tissue. During this procedure, the gum tissue is folded back and the disease-causing bacteria are removed. Membranes (filters), bone grafts (synthetic or human derived) or tissue stimulating proteins can be used to encourage your body’s natural ability to regenerate bone and tissue. These grafts act as a platform on which bone can regrow, restoring stability to your teeth.
During this procedure, excess gum and bone is reshaped to exposed more of the natural tooth. The support of the tooth is not affected. This can be done to one or more teeth for cosmetic purposes. Crown lengthening is also recommended to make a restorative or cosmetic dental procedure possible. For example, if your tooth is severely decayed, broken below the gum line, or your dentist needs to be able to see more of your tooth before a crown is made.
Soft Tissue Procedures
Soft tissue is added to reinforce thin gums, to prevent further recession, or to fill in areas where gums have receded. Grafted tissue is usually taken from the roof of your mouth (palate) and is sutured in place over the affected areas. Correction of the gum recession can improve esthetics, decrease hot and cold sensitivity, and help prevent root decay.
Implants are artificial tooth roots (we place metallic and non-metallic [ceramic] dental implants) placed into your jawbone to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. Implants are considered permanent tooth replacements and need the same hygiene and home care as natural teeth. Benefits of implants are they don’t sacrifice the quality of your natural adjacent teeth like a bridge does; they are highly compatible with your own bone and prevent bone loss and gum recession. Implants can meet individual needs whether you are missing all, a few, or only one of your teeth. The success rate of dental implants is highly predictable. They are considered an excellent option for tooth replacement.
Frenectomy and Fiber Release Procedures
Frenectomy procedures remove unfavorable soft tissue and muscle attachments from around teeth. Fiberotomies release the connective tissue attachments from around teeth to keep teeth from moving after Orthodontic treatment.
Ridge and Socket Augmentation Procedures
Hard and soft tissue grafts are performed to augment ridges and extraction sockets to enhance the functional and esthetic results of restorative dentistry. Anterior extraction sites can be grafted with bone graft material to improve the predictabilty and esthetics of fixed bridges and dental implants. Soft tissue grafts can be performed to augment ridge and improve tissue contours.
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