What is a periodontist? Do I need to see one?

A periodontist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, as well as dental implant placement. All periodontists are trained as general dentists, but they receive additional residency training of three years to perform periodontal procedures. Your general dentist may refer you to a periodontist if you exhibit the symptoms of gum disease or require a dental implant; however, you may schedule an appointment on your own if you have concerns about your oral health. Dr. Dean treats over 200 patients a year for TMJ problems and jaw pain.

What is periodontal disease, and am I at risk of developing it?

The term “periodontal” simply means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth. Also known as gum disease, or pyorrhea, periodontal disease is mainly attributed to the bacteria in dental plaque, which causes the gums to become inflamed and infected. Other factors, such as smoking or tobacco use, poor nutrition, stress or pregnancy, may put you at risk of developing gum disease.

Is periodontal disease contagious?

Although it is not an airborne disease, research indicates that the bacteria that cause gum disease can be passed through saliva. Therefore, families and couples who may be in close contact with a person with gum disease are also at risk. We recommend being screened for periodontal disease regularly if you are potentially at risk.

My gums bleed when I brush my teeth. Is this normal?

Healthy gums should not bleed when you brush your teeth. This is one of the early signs of gum disease. You should schedule an appointment with your periodontist for a complete periodontal screening.

Are there any ways to prevent periodontal disease?

Good oral hygiene is imperative in preventing periodontal disease. Proper brushing and flossing, in conjunction with regular dental visits for professional cleanings twice a year, will help keep your smile healthy for life.

Are dental implants the best restoration option?

Your periodontist can determine if dental implants are your best  option for your missing teeth. When used to replace individual teeth dental implants have a natural look and feel and can help prevent the adjacent teeth from shifting. Implants can help prevent bone loss. When you use dental implants to replace missing teeth your dentist will not have to drill down adjacent teeth to make a bridge. Loose dentures can be modified to snap in tightly with the use of implants and special attachments that fit into the existing denture.

If I have periodontal disease, do I need surgery? What are my options?

Whether you need surgery or not will depend on how advanced your periodontal disease is. There are non-surgical treatments, such as root scaling and planing available, for those with mild gum disease. If you are in the advanced stages of gum disease, you may benefit from having regeneration procedures to restore lost bone support. With the latest technology and advanced techniques available today, periodontal treatment can be performed in an office setting with no discomfort. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is available.

What is maintenance therapy?

Maintenance therapy is used to help prevent further infection from occurring after you have received periodontal treatment. Your periodontist will tailor a program to fit your needs, which will include periodontal checkups, plaque and tartar removal, polishing and occasionaly modification of your bite. The frequency of visits varies from case to case, from once a year to four times per year.

I have a “gummy” smile. Can this be corrected?

A procedure called crown lengthening can correct “gummy” smiles. Sometimes teeth appear short because the gum tissue grows over the tooth. With crown lengthening, the gums and supporting tissues are reshaped to expose more of the tooth, resulting in a more beautiful, more natural smile.

My gums are receding and my teeth appear “long.” Can this be fixed?

If left untreated, gum recession can lead to tooth loss. Gum grafts can fix this condition and prevent further recession and bone loss. In the procedure, gum tissue is taken from the inside of your upper molar teeth. This stronger tissue is then placed over the exposed roots, and the surrounding tissue is brought over the transplanted tissue. This is often the best looking option for repairing dental recession.