Sometimes we get asked the question: what exactly is a periodontist anyway? While we’re both dental professionals that are working towards the health of your teeth and gums, we typically have a different focus on what areas we are specializing in. Periodontists are dental specialists who work with patients that have usually encountered more complex issues than a patient of a standard general family dentist that is doing routine patient care such as cleaning and basic fillings.
Periodontists, on the other hand, specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum diseases (gingivitis and periodontitis) and other conditions that affect the supporting structures of the teeth, such as the gums, bone, and connective tissues. They are experts in performing procedures like scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), gum grafting, periodontal surgery, dental implant placement, and bone grafting to regenerate lost bone tissue.
Here are some key differences to understand the difference:
Focus of Practice
Regular dentists, also known as general dentists, provide comprehensive dental care to patients of all ages. Their scope of practice includes preventive care (cleanings, examinations, X-rays), restorative procedures (fillings, crowns, bridges), root canals, basic extractions, and cosmetic treatments (teeth whitening, veneers). They are the primary dental care providers and often refer patients to specialists for more complex cases.
Education and Training
Both periodontists and regular dentists begin their journey by completing a dental degree (Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine) from an accredited dental school. After dental school, periodontists undergo additional specialized training in periodontics, which involves the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. This training typically involves three years of advanced education in a periodontics residency program. Regular dentists may choose to pursue additional education and training in various dental specialties or continue their general dental practice.
Treatment of Gum Diseases
While regular dentists are capable of treating mild to moderate cases of gum disease, periodontists have specialized knowledge and experience in managing advanced or complex gum disease cases. They have advanced training in diagnosing the extent of gum disease, creating comprehensive treatment plans, and performing surgical interventions when necessary. Periodontists may also work closely with other dental specialists, such as prosthodontists and orthodontists, in complex cases that require a multidisciplinary approach.
Dental Implant Placement
One of the significant areas of expertise for periodontists is dental implants. Dental implants are a popular option for replacing missing teeth, and periodontists are highly skilled in assessing the suitability of a patient for implants, planning the placement, and performing the surgical procedure to insert the implants into the jawbone. They also specialize in managing any gum and bone issues that may affect the success and longevity of dental implants.
Referrals and Collaborations
Regular dentists often refer patients to periodontists when they identify signs of gum disease or other periodontal concerns that require specialized care. Periodontists work collaboratively with general dentists, providing consultation, treatment planning, and long-term management of periodontal conditions. They play a crucial role in maintaining optimal oral health and supporting the general dentist in delivering comprehensive dental care.
Southern Arizona Periodontics has been proudly serving the Greater Tucson area for over 30 years. We’ve been helping local patients right here in Tucson save their natural teeth, and when necessary, make the absolute best choices for options like dental imlpants, same-day implants, gum diease procedures, surgical procedures and much more. Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions about how we can help you, or would like to schedule a consultation for implants or a second opinion.