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What is a periodontist?

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What do periodontists do?

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Periodontist explained

Dr Sarah explains everything you need to know
about periodontics treatments at the dentist.

Dentistry is a vast profession. It has many delicate specialties, and each specialist is adequately trained to perform a specific set of procedures. While most dentists are capable of almost every procedure, a specialist is really the right choice for some of the more in-depth and intricate procedures. Examples of these procedures might include more complex implants, braces, and of course periodontics.

A periodontist is a specialist in periodontics, which is the art and science of dealing with the gums and the supporting structure of the tooth rather than the tooth itself. That entire supporting structure is called the periodontium.

What is periodontium?

The periodontium is the supporting structure of the tooth, meaning the apparatus that keeps the tooth in its place inside the socket. Most people would think that the gums are mainly responsible for that, but the periodontium is far more sophisticated. It includes:

  1. The gums:

    The biggest and most visible part of the periodontium. The gums cover the roots of the teeth up to their necks (that’s the part where the crown and root of the tooth meet). The gums are not only a key part of the supporting structure, but incredibly important in esthetics and smile mechanics as well.

  2. The periodontal ligament:

    Perio-dontal literally means around the tooth. The periodontal ligament is a set of fibers that anchor the tooth to the surrounding bone. It has many functions, the most important of which is that it acts like a cushion that softens the forces that the tooth endures during chewing and biting. It also plays a very important role in tooth movement with braces.

  3. The bone:

    The bone is the base of everything. Every part of the mouth (whether the teeth, tongue, muscles, and even the gums) are eventually attached to the bone. Jawbones are composed of many parts, but the part that the periodontist deals with is the socket itself (space that accommodates the roots of the teeth).


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What is the difference between a dentist and a periodontist?

As with any specialization, a periodontist must first go through dental school. However, he\she usually abandons general dentistry procedures such as fillings and root canals, and focuses more on his\her very delicate specialty that needs not only a keen eye and extra attention to detail, but a very sensitive touch as well.

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What are the common periodontics treatments?

  1. Deep scaling and root planning:

    It may sound simple, but it really isn’t. While regular cleanings can be done by a dentist or a hygienist, deep scaling can only be done by a specialist periodontist. Deep scaling and root planning procedure is indicated for people with very deep pockets and is considered the first step in treating a variety of gum-related problems. The procedure is a form of minor surgery where the root is exposed with an incision, and very specialized and delicate instruments are used to carefully clean its surface.

  2. Treating gum recession:

    A recession happens with age, and also with vigorous brushing and placing a huge load on the gums. With the recession, the roots of the teeth are exposed, and the patient would experience a very annoying sensitivity, among other problems. To fix these problems, the periodontist would attempt to cover that exposed part (either with a soft tissue graft, a bone graft, or a combination of both) so that the sensitive part gets covered and the sensitivity subsides.

  3. Gum reshaping:

    What most people don’t realize is how much the gums are involved in the smile. A smile is half white (meaning the teeth) and half pink (meaning the gums). You could have the most beautiful set of pearly white teeth, but if the gums are misshapen, the smile is still sub-optimum. A periodontist can take care of that, by cutting pieces of the gums away and reshaping their looks so they conform with the teeth and the smile.

  4. Implants:

    Dental implants are the most successful way of replacing missing teeth. They usually require a multitude of specialists to be placed successfully, and produce the desired results. A periodontist is one of those needed specialists since he\she is the only one capable of dealing with the gums and how they are shaped around the implant and the newly placed crowns.

  5. Grafts:

    There are 2 main types of grafts:

    Soft tissue grafts:

    Where a part of the gums is procured and relocated to another area that needs it more (as with cases of gum recession).

    Hard tissue (or bone) graft:

    Needed to repair a part of the lost bone either due to trauma or periodontal disease. They are also needed to augment the height and width of the bone before placing implants if the bone in this area is deficient. 

    A periodontist can do both types, although he\she is needed more for soft-tissue types.

    Soft tissue grafts:Hard tissue (or bone) graft:
  6. Treating gum and periodontal disease:

    The periodontist deals with mainly one organ: the periodontium. It makes sense that perhaps the biggest part of their job descriptions is to deal with the most common disease of that organ, and that is periodontal disease. It starts simple with some inflammation of the gums, with some itching, redness, and mild swelling, as well as the very diagnostic “bleeding while brushing” problem. With lack of treatment, it progresses to more dangerous problems such as bone loss and mobility of the teeth, transitioning into the more serious and much more difficult to treat a condition known as periodontitis. The early stages can be treated by a dentist or hygienist, but the later stages require a specialist’s touch, which is why most people call a periodontist “gum disease fixer”.

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How much does a periodontist cost?

It really depends on the condition and the severity of your disease. A simple professional cleaning session usually costs about the same as a hygienist or a dentist, ranging from $150 to $300. But let’s face it, you won’t be seeing a periodontist unless you have a serious problem that needs a specialist’s touch, and those procedures tend to be a bit more costly.

A deep scaling and root planning session may end up costing up to $1200, while bone and soft tissue grafts could cost about $1200 to $1500, depending on the amount of graft needed and what it will be used for. In general, a periodontist is one of the most expensive – but much needed – specialists in the dental field.

Insurance – unfortunately – doesn’t do much when it comes to specialized treatments such as periodontics, but some specialized plans could take about 25 to 40 % off your treatments, which is a huge chunk.

You could say that a periodontist is a gum disease specialist, but that will be a huge understatement as they can do much more than that. Although they are not needed on a regular basis (not like general dentists, orthodontists, or implant specialists), but when their time comes, the only periodontists can deal with your demands.

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How to find gum care specialists on AirSmile?



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AirSmile is full of dentists with an incredible amount of knowledge and experience in the field of periodontics and gum disease management.  If you suspect you need specialised gum treatment that may be beyond general dental services, you will first need to have your gum health assessed by a dentist and a referral given to you visit their preferred periodontist.  

To find the right dentist to help you get control of your gum health and back on the path to a healthy and lifelong smile, jump on AirSmile and begin your search today, for FREE!

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Get even more savvy with our FAQ'S

Understanding your condition is the key to making the right choices for you


A periodontist is a specialist who deals mainly with the periodontium, which is the supporting structure of the tooth that keeps it in place, and composed mainly of the gums, the bone and the periodontal ligament.

A dentist is capable of performing some procedures that a periodontist does, such as scaling and cleaning, along with other general dentistry procedures such as fillings, root canals, and extractions. A periodontist on the other hand focuses more on specialized procedures needed to maintain and repair the supporting apparatus of the tooth known as the periodontium. These procedures include deep scaling and root planning, hard and soft tissue grafts, and gum reshaping among others.

The initial visit is mostly about diagnosing your problem and figuring out a treatment plan. A periodontist’s diagnosis procedure is a bit more lengthy as he\she needs to examine each tooth separately and treat each one as a separate entity. The following visits are designed to carry out the treatments as determined by the plan.

Mostly procedures needed to maintain or fix a problem with the periodontium. These include deep scaling and root planning (needed to treat gum disease and periodontitis), Hard and soft tissue grafts (needed to repair recession of the gums), and gum reshaping (needed in the smile design process).

when the problem exceeds the limitations of a general dentist, which basically means when the gum disease has progressed to a stage where a simple cleaning is not enough to treat the problem.

A simple scaling costs around $150 to $300, but a deep cleaning session may reach up to $1200 since a minor surgery and more specialized equipment and tools are involved.

It really depends on the amount needed to be harvested and grafted, as the amount affects the time spent and complexity of the procedure. Generally, prices for gum grafts start at $1200.

If surgery is involved, your main concern should be directed towards the follow-up visits and the healing process, as well as the tips he\she, would give you on how to maintain a healthy mouth, which is needed not only to preserve the surgical site but to prevent further problems in the future as well.

When your dentist deems your problem as too advanced to be treated by simple procedures as scaling and cleaning, and a more specialized procedure is needed.

Usually, periodontal surgeries need a lifetime of visits to the periodontist for maintenance and adjustments, and just to check if the condition has progressed or receded.

Most insurance does not cover specialized procedures of periodontics, but some extra plans can save up to 40%-60% of the costs needed if you attend participating clinics.

It starts with a simple selling of the gums, with redness, itching, and minor bleeding, especially with brushing. It later progresses to bone loss (which is the actual first stage of periodontal disease) and if no treatment is done, the bone loss continues further and the tooth could become mobile in its socket.

Unfortunately, periodontal disease can never really be “cured”, only controlled. With proper care and an excellent treatment plan, the periodontium could be sufficiently repaired to avoid further problems, but continuous monitoring and maintenance visits will be needed in the future.

No difference, they are two names of the same condition.

Again there is no “cure” for periodontal disease, but the recovery process for most of the abovementioned surgeries and procedures could be quite lengthy. Time is needed for recovery of the surgical site, and a number of follow-up visits must also be arranged to monitor the healing progress carefully.

All that is needed is to keep the teeth and mouth as clean as possible, as well as frequent visits for check-ups just to make sure the condition does not progress further and does not exacerbate into an acute stage, which is very aggressive and very difficult to treat.

Periodontitis is diagnosed as bone loss and pocket formation starts. Pockets are diagnoses through clinical findings (where the patients start complaining of spaces between the teeth that tend to trap food) or increased mobility of the tooth. X-rays are also needed to confirm the bone loss, as well as some specialized measuring equipment to measure the depth of the pockets and the amount of bone loss, which is a key step in determining the correct course of treatment.

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