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WHO IS A PERIODONTIST AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?

You are likely to have periodontal disease during your lifetime.

It can develop at any age. In fact, periodontal disease is one of the most prevalent diseases of man.

Here, our resident peridontist, Kuljeet Mehta, explains…

More than one in three people over age 30 have a form of periodontal disease that has advanced beyond gingivitis. However, because periodontal disease develops silently and painlessly, the majority of people do not even realize they have it. Knowing the state of your periodontal health is important. So, if you don’t know, ask your dental professional. It’s a good idea to know if you are in good periodontal health because periodontal disease and dental decay are the primary causes of adult tooth loss. But even more importantly, recent research has found a relationship between periodontal infection and more serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and pre-term low birth weight babies. As you can see, good periodontal health is a key component of a healthy body. Share this blog post with others you care about to help them learn the importance of periodontal health.

What is periodontal disease?

The word “periodontal” literally means around the tooth. Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colourless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.

In the mildest form of the disease, gingivitis, the gums redden, swell and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.

Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.

 

Who 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 in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. Periodontists are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease. In addition, they can perform cosmetic periodontal procedures to help you achieve the smile you desire.

Often, dentists refer their patients to a periodontist when periodontal disease is present. However, you don’t need a referral to see a periodontist. In fact, there are occasions when you may choose to go directly to a periodontist or to refer a family member or friend to your own periodontist.

 

When should I see a periodontist?

If you value your oral as well as overall health, any time is a good time to see a periodontist for a periodontal evaluation. Sometimes the only way to detect periodontal disease is through a periodontal evaluation. A periodontal evaluation may be especially important if you:

?Notice any symptoms of periodontal disease, including:

Gums that bleed easily, such as during brushing or flossing

Red, swollen or tender gums

Gums that have pulled away from the teeth

Persistent bad breath

Pus between the teeth and gums

Loose or separating teeth

A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

? Are thinking of becoming pregnant.

About half of women experience “pregnancy gingivitis.” However, women who have good oral hygiene and have no gingivitis before pregnancy are very unlikely to experience this condition.

?Have a family member with periodontal disease. Research suggests that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can pass through saliva. This means the common contact of saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting the periodontal disease of another family member.

? Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis. Ongoing research is showing that periodontal disease may be linked to these conditions. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel into the blood stream and pose a threat to other parts of the body. Healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.

? Feel that your teeth are too short or that your smile is too “gummy.” Or, if you are missing one or more of your teeth and are interested in a long-lasting replacement option. are not satisfied with your current tooth replacement option, such as a bridge or dentures, and may be interested in dental implants.

? Have a sore or irritation in your mouth that does not get better within two weeks.

 


What can I expect the first time I visit a periodontist?

During your first visit, your periodontist will review your complete medical and dental history with you. It’s extremely important for your periodontist to know if you are taking any medications or are being treated for any condition that can affect your periodontal care.

During a periodontal examination, the periodontist will gently place a small measuring instrument called a periodontal probe in the pocket between the teeth and gums to measure pocket depths and help make a diagnosis. Probing depths measuring 1-3mm are usually considered healthy. Four to 5mm may indicate mild periodontitis, 5-6mm suggest moderate periodontitis, and 7mm or greater may indicate severe periodontitis. This helps your periodontist assess the health of your gums.

In addition to probing depth measurements, X-rays may be taken to evaluate the health of the bone supporting the teeth.

Your periodontist will also examine your gums, check to see if there is any gum line recession, assess how your teeth fit together when you bite and check your teeth to see if any are loose.

 

Seeing a periodontist can help you keep your teeth for a lifetime, restore confidence in your smile and positively impact overall health.

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