You’re used to going to the dentist & just seeing the doctor, the hygienist & maybe a dental assistant. But now you’ve been told you need to see a periodontist too. Now you’re thinking, “Perio-what?”
If you’ve never heard the word periodontist, don’t worry. To put it plainly, a periodontist is a dentist who specializes in caring for your gums & the other supporting tissues of your mouth. “Peri-” means “around” & “odont” means “tooth”. Periodontal means having to do with the tissues around your teeth & periodontitis means infection of the tissues around your teeth.
Dentist usually refer patients to a periodontist because they have periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. While general dentists are also qualified to treat periodontal disease, periodontists can offer more specialized care and attention, just like an orthodontist can offer more specialized braces options that most general dentists.
Dentists may also refer you to a periodontist if you have health factors that put you at higher risk of periodontal disease & it’s complications. Examples of such risk factors are pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease or having recently undergone cancer treatment or organ replacement surgery.
While a dentist may choose to treat your periodontal disease at their own practice at first, they may choose to refer you to a periodontist if they feel a specialist will be able to offer you a more successful outcome. By the way, when we say a more successful outcome when it comes to periodontal disease, we generally mean you’ll end up keeping most of your teeth.
As you may have realized from the explanation about terminology above, periodontal disease is a disease of the tissues around your mouth. Specifically this means your gums & the bone of your jaws, which are what hold your teeth in your mouth. If these both become diseased & weakened, your teeth can fall out. Having periodontal treatment (often called periodontal maintenance) from either a periodontist or your general dentist reduces the chance you will lose a tooth.
We know that some periodontal patients view going to see a periodontist for their treatment as an inconvenience, so we will do our best to pair you with a specialist who’s hours fit your busy schedule. However, if you find that you just can’t make the time to go to the periodontist, we’d much rather you see us for your periodontal maintenance rather than not doing it at all.
If you have any questions about your referral to a periodontist or your diagnosis of periodontal disease, please contact us!