Three Reasons You Might Want to See a Periodontist
A periodontist is a specialist in dentistry with advanced training in problems involving the tissues that surround the teeth. This includes things familiar to people, like the gums (its fancy name is gingiva) and bone; but also things most people outside of dentistry have never heard of, like cementum and periodontal ligament.
To become a periodontist involves a minimum of three years additional formal schooling after dental school. Out of a population of roughly 150,000 practicing dentists only about 4,500 have gone on to become practicing periodontists.
There are nine specialties in dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association, and periodontics is one of them. This is due to the fact that periodontal disease is both common and potentially very destructive. A great deal of research comes out of this particular area of dentistry to include better understandings of chronic infectious diseases; bone health, growth and repair; anaerobic bacterial diseases; as well as optimizing the placement and longevity of dental implants — to name just a few.
Although the field of periodontics is highly academic, there are at least three reasons I can think of that someone with no deep understanding of dentistry, or science for that matter, might want to see a periodontist.
- Your dentist has referred you.
There are a number of procedures that most dentists prefer not to do simply because they may require specific instrumentation that is cost prohibitive. Also with different instruments come new and different techniques that require training. Some of this training itself is lengthy and therefore cost prohibitive. General dentistry is complicated enough because it involves working within all of the specialties to some extent, so there ought to always be some procedures within every specialty that a general dentist will prefer to refer.
- Your treatment is complicated.
Because periodontists work primarily at the front end of care, managing chronic diseases and problems caused by loose teeth or lost teeth, they are used to diagnosing complex problems and listing out all reasonable treatment options. Because they are specialists focused on one aspect of dental care, they are used to working with other dentists to achieve the best treatment results. This makes them a great resource for second opinions.
- You haven’t seen a dentist for years.
You already know you have problems, but you aren’t sure what to do about them and you don’t know which dentist to see. Seeing a periodontist first makes a lot of sense in this instance because, as I have already mentioned, they are focused on solving problems at the front end of care.
Also, because periodontists are specialists and work in a team-approach with other dentists, they are well connected to other dental practices in the community. This means they have a really good handle on what different general dentists like treating. For example, one dentist might enjoy working with children, another might be focused on chronic pain problems, and someone else might lean toward more cosmetic care. The bottom line is that dentistry, because it is such a large discipline, even general dentists end up focusing and emphasizing certain aspects of dental care at the exclusion of others.
I hope this has been helpful. If I can be of further service, please call, shoot me an email, or leave a comment to this blog.