What Is a Periodontist?
Reviewed by Dr. M. George Ayad, DDS — Written by Anna Marden on CareDash.com
If your teeth and gums are sore, and it's been a while since you've had a visit to the dentist, you might need extensive work done to restore your smile. After your routine exam and cleaning, your general dentist might recommend that you see a periodontist for any necessary specialized oral care. "Periodontal" is a medical term that refers to the gums and other parts of the mouth that surround the teeth. This type of specialist has more training than a general dentist but takes care of many of the same issues.
What Is a Periodontist?
“Periodontists repair and regenerate damage to supporting structures of the teeth (bone and gum), and replace missing teeth with dental implants,” said M. George Ayad, DDS, a Diplomate for the American Board of Periodontology and periodontist in Hackensack, NJ.
Often, seeing a periodontist is the next step after your regular dentist has diagnosed you with advanced dental disease or if you require intervention beyond general dental care.
“Periodontists are well informed about the oral and systemic disease associations which have a significant impact on overall health,” said Dr. Ayad.
Reasons to See a Periodontist
You might see a periodontist if your mouth condition is severe or if your medical history is complex. If your gum disease has significantly progressed, for example, your dentist might refer you to a periodontist.
Periodontists do many procedures that go beyond what your general dentist is trained to do. For example, you may see a periodontist for a deep cleaning. Other common procedures performed by periodontists include:
The role of a periodontist is similar to that of an oral surgeon. “While there is an overlap of services provided by both, [oral surgeons] typically don't treat infections around diseased natural teeth and dental implants,” said Dr. Ayad.
Depending on your location and specific circumstances, a periodontist may be able to provide the expertise you need to achieve optimal oral health.
A periodontist is a dentist with additional training in the specialty of periodontology. To understand the full certification held by your periodontist, you must look first to the training required of a general dentist.
To become a dentist, candidates in each state must complete an educational program leading to a DDS or DMD degree. In addition to completing this coursework, prospective dentists must pass written and oral examinations. State-specific requirements may also include a demonstration of good moral character, vaccinations, malpractice insurance, and CPR and/or life support certification.
To become a periodontist, dentists must complete an accredited postdoctoral program that lasts from 30 to 36 months. This specialized training is what distinguishes a general dentist from one qualified to practice periodontology.
It is, therefore, possible for a dentist to specialize in periodontology upon completion of the postdoctoral program. Your general dentist, however, may have referred you to a professional who is a "Board Certified" periodontist.
Board certification is not necessary to practice as a periodontist. However, some specialists choose to pursue this additional level of certification, issued by the American Board of Periodontology. Board certification means your periodontist has demonstrated advanced proficiency at placing dental implants and excellent knowledge of periodontal disease, including phases and treatment options.
To be Board certified, periodontists must:
Board certification must be repeated every six years. You can discover if your periodontist is Board certified by visiting the database on the American Board of Periodontology website.
You may want to start your search for a periodontist by asking your general dentist to recommend a trusted local specialist. To confirm that your dentist is licensed to practice in your state, you should have access to an online database that allows you to search by last name or license type. Locate your local database by conducting an online search, or use the CareDash dentist finder to find a certified specialist.
To discover if a periodontist is right for you, assess their qualifications. You can call their office in advance of the appointment and ask how many years they've been in practice and how long they have been doing periodontology. If your periodontist is Board-certified, you may want to ask how recently that certification was renewed, since it expires every six years.
First Meeting and Questions to Ask
As with any medical specialist, it's important to ask your periodontist any questions you have on your mind. During your first meeting, however, you may want to cover the basics by asking things such as:
“Explore treatment options and alternatives, including doing nothing,” Dr. Ayad advised. “[Ask your periodontist about] the typical success rate of treatments, and long term prognosis.”
Depending on your particular circumstances, you may have additional questions to ask. For example, if you do not have insurance but need dental implants, you may ask about financing options. If your dental disease affects your ability to consume certain types of food, you may want to ask about nutritional requirements and options while you are under a periodontist's care.
A periodontist is an important part of your dental care team. They are specially qualified not only to diagnose your periodontal disease but also to assess your gum health and recommend a treatment plan. Your periodontist will likely communicate with your general dentist to make sure you receive appropriate medical care.
To find a periodontist that's right for you, research their qualifications using online tools and by speaking to your general dentist. Once you are under the care of a new dental professional, ask any questions on your mind to make sure you get the care you and your gums need.
3/25/2020 06:13:09 am
I didn't realize that the periodontist is the one who helps with bone and gum loss. My mother has lost a few teeth over the years, and would now like to have dental implants put in. Would she need to see a periodontist to make sure the bone is strong enough for a procedure like that?
6/29/2020 05:38:16 pm
6/29/2020 05:09:20 pm
After working for the majority of his life, my friend Jerry has been looking to finally get some dental help for himself and is looking for tips on who to go to. I really appreciated it when you stated that periodontists provide treatment for people with complex dental histories because Jerry has always known that his health habits haven't been good for his teeth, he just never knew how except through some symptoms that he told us he was experiencing. Once we find a periodontist for Jerry, I'll be sure to get him to read your article so he knows what to expect. Thank you!
6/29/2020 05:41:54 pm
Hello Mr. Jackson,
2/27/2021 12:50:02 am
Enjoying reading the article above, really explains everything in detail, the article is very interesting and effective. Thank you and good luck with the upcoming articles.
11/2/2021 07:54:23 pm
Thanks for this very educational blog post! Periodontists are dentists who focus only on gum disease therapy. Their responsibilities include diagnosing and treating gum disease, doing root planing and curettage procedures, and placing dental implants. Periodontics is a subspecialty of dentistry that studies and treats the tissues and structures that hold teeth in their sockets. The term "periodontics" is derived from the Greek words peri (around) and odonto (tooth) (tooth). This term refers to the "surrounding tooth"; it is the dental speciality devoted to the oral health of those teeth.
1/19/2023 07:28:39 am
Unfortunately, I had a terrible experience. After having gum surgery so that I can have implants, I called to say that I was experiencing numbness in the area. I was told to wait until my next appointment and that it would go away. Well it did not - nor has it in the 2 years after the surgery. Dr. Ayad recommended several specialist to see if something could be done. Not only could nothing be done but I wasted time and money hoping for a solution. I am still paying off the debt from the original surgery and now I am being told that I am not a candidate for implants. My home for a decent smile has been dashed. Oh, and guess what there is a 2 year window if I had wanted to seek compensation to at least pay off the cost. My experience was very disappointing and now I must live with missing teeth, a monthly payment for an unsuccessful procedure and permanent dumbness!
It really helped when you said that we can start looking for a periodontist by asking a general dentist, then we can start assessing the qualifications they have to see if they are the right one for us. I will share this tip with my sister because she wanted to get a dental implant for the gap between her molar teeth. It has been making it hard for her to eat comfortable for the past years which is why it can be great to find someone she can trust to ensure that the procedure would be successful.
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