Karl A. Smith, DDS, LLC
601 Post Office Road
Waldorf, MD 20602
What Is a Periodontist? Do I Need To See One? Part One
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease, and in the placement of dental implants. They are experts in the treatment of oral inflammation, as they receive extensive training in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.
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, periodontal disease is generally 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 also put you at risk of developing gum disease.
Is periodontal disease contagious? Although it is not an airborne disease, research has indicated 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, particularly if you have a family history of periodontal disease or tooth loss.
My gums bleed when I brush. Is this normal? Healthy gums should not bleed when you brush your teeth. This is one of the early signs of gum disease. Think of gum tissue as the skin on your hand. If your hands bled every time you washed them, you would know something is wrong. Other signs of gum disease include red, swollen or tender gums; sores in your mouth; gums that have pulled away from the teeth; persistent bad breath; pus between the teeth and gums (leaving bad breath); loose or separating teeth; a change in the way the teeth fit together; and a change in the fit of partial dentures. If you have any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with an experienced Periodontist for a complete periodontal screening.
What is a typical periodontal treatment? Periodontists often treat more problematic periodontal cases, such as those with severe gum disease or a complex medical history. They offer a wide range of treatments, such as scaling and root planing (in which the infected surface of the root is cleaned) or root surface debridement (in which damaged tissue is removed). They also treat patients with severe gum problems using a range of surgical procedures. In addition, Periodontists are specially trained in the placement and repair of dental implants.
My first visit will include? During your first visit, the periodontist will review your complete medical and dental history. It is extremely important that you share all of the medications that you are taking, or if you're being treated for any condition that can affect your periodontal care, such as heart disease, diabetes, or pregnancy. Your periodontist will then examine your the gums, and check to see if there is any gum line recession, assesses how your teeth fit together when biting, and will check to see if any of your teeth are loose. He will also take a small measuring instrument called a probe and place it between your teeth and gums to determine the depth of those spaces, known as periodontal pockets; this helps the Periodontist assess the health of your gums. X-rays are generally taken to observe the health of the bone below the gum line.