The word “periodontist” originates from “perio-” meaning around and “dont-” meaning tooth. Simply put, a periodontist is a dental specialist who manages the supporting bone and soft tissue structures around teeth rather than the teeth themselves.
Periodontists are one of the several types of specialists recognized by the American Dental Association. As experts in a particular field of dentistry, they’re able to provide tailored therapies and treatments that are not always available within a family or general dental practice.
Types of Treatments Offered by Periodontists
Periodontists offer several different types of dental treatments, even though most people know them for their work with patients struggling from periodontal disease. Because they provide only specialized procedures, a periodontist will have invested in particular pieces of technology and treatment equipment that allows them to provide treatments and resources a general dentist doesn’t have access to.
Here are some of the reasons why you may need to see a gum health specialist instead of a traditional family dentist
Crown Lengthening — When a tooth needs to be restored with a crown or bridge, but not enough of it is visible above the gumline, a periodontist can lower the gum levels thereby creating a larger crown for your dentist or prosthodontist to work with.
Gum Recontouring — For health and cosmetic reasons, adjusting the margins of your gum tissues can benefit restorative and/or cosmetic dentistry. It’s common to experience gingival overgrowth as a result of certain medications or hormonal changes, but gum recontouring is also a common treatment for “gummy smiles.”
Laser Gum Treatments — Procedures such as LANAP or laser gum therapy allow for faster and more responsive healing as part of your periodontal therapy. Soft tissue lasers destroy infectious bacteria without damaging the healthy tissues in their path. Patients often experience improved results than conventional periodontal treatments performed without a laser.
Gum Grafting — Receding gumlines can predispose teeth to sensitivity, cavities, mobility problems, and aesthetic concerns. Covering the exposed root surfaces with a gum graft helps protect your smile.
Dental Implant Placement — Oral surgeons and experienced general dentists aren’t the only providers to place dental implants. Periodontists do too; their work with bone and gum tissues around the teeth make them experts when it comes to a gentle and predictable implant procedure.
Periodontal Pocket Reduction — After treating areas of gum disease, deep pockets may need to be “shortened” in order to clean and maintain each day. Otherwise, disease can relapse. Through pocket reduction surgery the crowns are slightly lengthened and the gumlines are brought further down on the tooth.
Periodontal Therapy — If you haven’t responded to a scaling and root planing (“deep cleaning”) as your dentist would have liked, or if you have aggressive stages of periodontal disease, then a periodontist can clean deeper areas around each tooth which might otherwise be inaccessible to your dentist.
When to Get a Referral to a Periodontist
You may want to ask your dentist to refer you to a periodontist if you haven’t responded as well to periodontal treatments as you both hoped that you would, or if you need a particular type of treatment such as implant placement. If that’s the case, you will be seen alternately by your routine dentist and the periodontist, as they work together to map out a customized treatment plan. This may include ongoing and intermittent checkups with your periodontist, or only a one-time procedure until your care is handed back off to your dentist.
Some periodontists accept new patients without referrals. So if you want a second opinion about if you’re a candidate for implants or if it’s possible to save a particular tooth, then a periodontist can be a helpful resource.
Does Insurance Pay for Periodontal Treatment?
Since a periodontist is a specialist, your insurance may dictate that you receive a referral from your general dentist before being able to see them, or they may pay “less” on your treatment than they would if you were receiving care at a general office (whose prices tend to be lower.)
But when it comes to your smile, a periodontist can help you prevent tooth loss and improve your oral health. When you need to see an expert, you may want to consider being part of an Aetna dental savings plan. Members can receive 15-50% discounts on treatments like periodontal therapy with participating dentists and periodontists nationwide.
For more information about dental savings plans, visit aetnadentaloffers.com.