The health of your teeth, gums, and supporting tissues is paramount to enjoying good oral health. Dentists give several recommendations to achieve that, but you must work to ensure that your oral health and overall well-being are good. If that does not work, a general dentist can offer various services to restore oral health, depending on the underlying issue.

Periodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on inflammatory issues that damage your gums and the structures surrounding your teeth. Your dentist can refer you to a periodontist if you have damaged gums or infected surrounding tissues. You could also see a specialist to prevent gum disease and related oral issues. The treatment procedure with a periodontist will include thoroughly examining your teeth, gums, and underlying structures, treatment, and prevention.

It helps to engage the services of an experienced general dentist to enjoy lifelong, quality periodontal services. Our team of highly skilled and experienced general dentists at Washington Dental is always prepared to walk you through the examination, treatment, and prevention processes. We offer a range of periodontal services for adults and children. Thus, you can count on us to help you enjoy the best oral health and general well-being at Carson.

An Overview of Periodontics

Oral health goes beyond strong and healthy teeth. Your gums, jawbones, and the structures below your teeth play a significant role in how strong and healthy, or otherwise, your teeth are. The field of dentistry is divided into various branches that focus on different areas that contribute to your oral health and general well-being.

Periodontics focuses on your gums, jawbones, and the teeth’ underlying structures. Typically, it deals with all the tissues and structures that hold your teeth in position, enabling them to look and function as they should. General dentists are trained in periodontics, but they specialize in this branch to learn more about preventing and treating periodontal issues. Your general dentist can offer advice and guidance and even examine your teeth for periodontal issues. But they can refer you to a periodontist for a detailed examination, treatment, and care.

The name “periodontics” is formed from the Greek words peri and odont. Peri means around, and odont means a tooth. That is why periodontics refers to the care and treatment of areas around the teeth, which are your teeth’s supporting structures. Examples of conditions a periodontist deals with include periodontal or gum disease, gum recession, and bone loss.

The first time you see a dentist, or if you regularly visit one, you will likely deal with a general dentist. General dentists have studied everything about teeth, gums, jawbones, roots, and other underlying structures. They can examine your teeth and mouth to diagnose and treat an oral or dental issue. General dentists offer various preventive, curative, and restorative treatments to ensure you enjoy good oral health.

However, we have specialists in dentistry who return to school after becoming general dentists to specialize in a particular field. Periodontists are gum specialists whose focus is on treating illnesses affecting the support systems of your teeth. After dental school graduation, periodontists receive additional three-year training and certification to offer periodontics services.

Most people see a periodontist after a referral from a general dentist, but you can see one without a referral. For example, if your general dentist feels you need a bone graft after oral examinations, they will refer you to a periodontist. Periodontists have more advanced skills to offer surgical treatments that improve oral health. You could see a periodontist on a short-term basis, after which you continue treatment with your general dentist. You could also see one long-term if you have recurring chronic gum disease.

Note that some people are predisposed to periodontal disease. These people require regular examinations and cleanings by a periodontist to maintain good oral health.

What Periodontics Entail

Periodontists handle all oral health problems affecting the periodontium, the tissue surrounding your teeth. Therefore, periodontics entails the examination and treatment of the following areas:

  • The gingiva or gums.
  • The periodontal ligament, which refers to the connective tissues between your teeth and jawbones.
  • The cementum, which is the hard layer of tissues that covers the roots of your teeth.
  • The alveolar bone or a part of your bones with tooth sockets.

All these areas play a significant role in supporting your teeth and enabling them to function as they should. For example, your gums keep your teeth in place. If they are affected by gum disease, the teeth will lose support and could start falling off. On the other hand, the periodontal ligament connects your teeth to the jawbone to withstand the force of chewing and biting.

To keep your teeth’ supporting structures in good health, periodontists offer a range of treatments, including the following:

Periodontal Maintenance

It is a type of cleaning that rids your teeth and gums of buildup, stuck food particles, and bacteria that could affect your oral health. A general dentist offers teeth cleanings at least twice a year. But on top of regular teeth cleaning, periodontics advocates for a deeper cleaning of your gums to eliminate any signs of gingivitis or gum disease. A hygienist or periodontist can offer periodontal maintenance, where they check the health of your gums and how deep your gum pockets are. Gum pockets are spaces between your teeth and gums. The pockets become wider if your gums are infected with gingivitis or gum disease.

If you are at risk of gum disease, your general dentist or periodontist will recommend periodontal maintenance at least every four months. After thoroughly examining our teeth and gums, they suggest a cleaning and maintenance schedule based on their findings.

Periodontal Cleaning

Also known as scaling and root planing, periodontal cleaning is another type of deep cleaning for your gums and teeth’ underlying structures. The difference between periodontal cleaning with regular cleaning and periodontal maintenance is that periodontal cleaning is more invasive. Therefore, your dentist will put you under local anesthesia to protect you from pain and discomfort. Anesthesia also keeps you calm throughout the treatment, allowing the hygienist or periodontist to penetrate underneath the gum line, where the dangerous bacteria hide.

Once your gums are deep cleaned, your periodontist will smooth your root’s surfaces to keep them from redeveloping harmful bacteria and plaque.

Periodontal cleaning is recommended for people with mild gingivitis or gum disease. It can rid you of the disease for good. But you must follow the instructions your dentist provides for keeping your teeth and gums clean and free from buildup.

Periodontal Surgery

For more serious periodontal diseases, periodontics offers surgical treatment. Periodontists offer different kinds of surgical treatments based on the nature and severity of the underlying issue. They include the following:

  1. Gingival Flap Surgery

It is a surgical procedure to reduce gum pockets or spaces between infected gums and your teeth. A periodontist can recommend this treatment for moderate and severe gum disease. It is usually necessary to reduce these pockets to keep your teeth in position and prevent them from falling off. Remember that your gums provide solid support for your teeth. If the spaces between your gums and teeth widen, your teeth become weak and shaky.

The periodontist will make a few incisions in this treatment and slowly move your gums from the teeth. That allows them access to the underlying structure and how far the infection has spread underneath the gum line.

The treatment procedure involves thoroughly cleaning the infected area and its surroundings. The periodontist will, after cleaning, reposition the supporting tissues and stitch the gum back in place.

Periodontists perform this procedure under local anesthesia. Thus, the hygienist or periodontist will give you a shot on the gums to numb the surrounding areas. They will then use a scalpel to separate your teeth from the gums to allow them access to the roots and bone supporting the teeth. In this case, deep cleaning involves removing all inflamed tissues between your gums and teeth and any defects in the jawbone. The periodontist will eliminate any bone defects you have.

  1. Gum Graft Surgery

If periodontitis or gum disease has caused gum recession or thinning gums, your periodontist can recommend gum graft surgery to cover the tooth’s roots and add some volume to the gum line. That would improve your oral health.

When you have gum recession, your gum tissue is unhealthy, insufficient, and incapable of supporting your teeth as it should. A periodontist can add some tissue to the areas where your gums have thinned to increase their volume and improve their support. The tissues the periodontists use in these treatments can come from the top of the mouth or be bought from an authorized tissue and bone bank.

To start the treatment process, the periodontist or hygienist will give you local anesthesia to numb your gums and teeth and make the treatment process painless and comfortable. Periodontists offer other options, like oral sedation, IV sedation, and nitrous oxide. They will then prepare the area requiring treatment by incision to create a small flap in the gums. That will give them access to the area below the gum line for deep cleaning.

The next step would be to harvest a gum graft if they are not using a store-bought one. The periodontist will carefully place the graft over the exposed roots to cover the recession area. Finally, they will reposition the gum tissue and stitch it into place.

  1. Tooth Extractions

Typically, general dentists perform tooth extractions. But they can refer you to a periodontist for a hard-to-remove tooth, especially if it breaks at the gumline. Since they specialize in gums and other tooth structures, they can carefully and safely remove a problematic tooth without interfering with the underlying structures, the gums, or the jawbone.

Additionally, a periodontist can recommend and perform tooth extractions if you have severe bacteria, plaque, or inflammation. Sometimes, these issues affect one or more teeth beyond what the dentist can salvage. Since their goal is mainly to improve your oral health and general well-being, they will remove the problematic teeth to prevent their possible effect on your other teeth and your oral and general health.

To perform this procedure, the periodontist or hygienist will give you local anesthesia to keep you calm and relaxed. They will then loosen the tooth to make it easier to pull out. The periodontist will take extra precautions if you have inflamed gums to prevent further damage. They will use forceps to pull out the tooth from the gum.

Other treatment procedures will follow if you have gum disease to stop its spread and prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.

  1. Bone Grafts

When periodontitis spreads deep into the jawbone, it can infect and erode it, affecting the bone’s support in your teeth. If, after a thorough examination, the periodontist realizes that your jawbone is eroded, they can recommend and perform bone grafting in the affected area. The material used in this procedure can be bought from a tissue and bone bank or extracted from a different part of your mouth.

The treatment aims to add density and volume to your jaw in the parts where you have lost some bone. Once the periodontist places the graft on the affected area, your body will naturally do the repair work to ensure that the foreign material bonds well with the surrounding tissues. The graft will act as a scaffold for the bone tissue to regenerate.

To start the treatment process, the periodontist will numb the surrounding area to make it painless and comfortable for you. They will incision the gums and slightly move the gum tissue back to expose the jawbone. They will disinfect the area before placing the bone graft where needed. Once the graft is in place, the periodontist will reposition the gum tissue and stitch the incision closed.

  1. Surgical Lengthening of a Dental Crown

Dental crowns are restorative treatments for severely damaged teeth. A natural tooth can suffer damage due to several factors, including a cavity or injury after an accident. If your tooth’s underlying structures are in perfect condition, your dentist can recommend placing a dental crown on the damaged tooth to restore its shape, length, and functionality. But if the damaged tooth has only a small part left above the gum line, placing a crown on it could be challenging.

In this case, your dentist can refer you to a periodontist to lengthen the remaining natural tooth for crown placement. Periodontists perform this treatment by removing some bone and gum tissue around the affected tooth to give it enough room to receive a dental crown.

The periodontist will give you local anesthesia, a sedative, or both to perform this procedure. They will pull your gums from the teeth, exposing the bone and roots. The periodontist can remove some gum tissue in some cases. Once the procedure is done, they will clean and disinfect the area before stitching it back to its original state.

In most cases, this surgical procedure is completed in an outpatient setting, after which you can go home.

  1. Smile Lifts

If your gum tissue is excessive to the point of covering part of your teeth, a periodontist can perform a smile lift to restore your smile and confidence. People with this condition are generally shy, reserved, and conscious of their appearance. Periodontists offer this treatment to restore your smile and improve your general appearance.

When giving you a smile lift, the periodontist will remove the excess gum tissues and sometimes a small part of your jawbone from the problematic area. This procedure can be done alone or as part of a general treatment, for example, when receiving a veneer.

  1. Frenectomy

A frenectomy is a type of surgical treatment targeting the frenum, a tissue collection connecting one body part to another. You have two connective tissues in the mouth: the labial and lingual. The labial connects the lips and gums, while the lingual connects the tongue and gums. When a frenum is tighter than it should be, it can cause problems like gum recession and tongue-tie conditions. If a general dentist identifies the cause of your problem and traces it back to a tight frenulum, they can refer you to a periodontist. To complete the treatment, the periodontist will create a small incision on the area where the frenum is tighter than it should be to free it up and fix the problem.

When To Seek Periodontic Services

Remember that most dental patients who seek the help of a periodontist are referred by their dentist. However, some factors could indicate a problem with your gums and/or the underlying structures that could compel you to contact a periodontist. Even though your regular dentist can treat most gum-related issues, you need specialized care if the problem is more advanced.

For example, advanced gum disease can result in tooth loss. It can affect your general health if the infection spreads to other body parts. You can schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice a dental or oral issue.

But if you experience these symptoms, you can contact a periodontist:

If Your Gums Are Swollen

If your gums swell after an accident, you can seek regular treatment or see a general dentist to check and treat the extent of your injury. But if your gums swell without particular cause, it could be the first sign of gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis becomes a more severe gum disease and spreads to the underlying structures of your teeth. You need a quick remedy immediately after your gums start swelling.

Your gums swell when tartar and plaque-forming bacteria cause inflammation. The inflammation spreads quickly and could result in an infection and tooth loss.

Gums That Easily Bleed

Gums are tough and can withstand regular brushing and flossing without bleeding. But if your gums easily bleed after a slight touch when eating, brushing, or flossing, they could be inflamed. Inflamed gums will also be sore to the touch. Check for pink coloration every time you brush your teeth. If you spit blood after brushing your teeth, it could be time to see your dentist.

Remember that gingivitis starts by inflaming your gums. Prolonged inflammation results in an infection, quickly spreading to the gums and the underlying structures.

A Foul Breath

This is a quick sign that something is not right in your mouth. If you regularly clean and floss your teeth, as you should, you should not have bad breath. Bad breath can indicate an infection in the mouth or bacterial pocket holes. In that case, you should not ignore it.

Pain When Chewing

Experiencing pain when biting or chewing is not normal. Depending on the exact part of your mouth that hurts, you can see a general dentist or a periodontist. Inflammation of your gums results in gum recession, whereby the gaps between your teeth and gums widen and become deeper as the infection spreads. Consequently, your teeth become loose, painful, and sensitive. Sometimes, you could experience difficulties chewing. If you notice changes in how your teeth fit together or unusual gaps between your teeth, you must see a periodontist right away.

Receding Gums

When your gum line starts decreasing, it could be because of gum disease or other factors, like aggressively brushing your teeth. The cause of gum recession is tissue damage. Even if the cause of your receding gums is not a periodontal disease, a periodontist should be able to correct it and minimize your risk of gum disease.

Find an Experienced Periodontist Near Me

The health of your gums and other supporting structures plays a significant role in your oral health and general well-being. That is why you need specialized care if you have gum issues. A general dentist can examine your gums and tissues and recommend treatment. But they can refer you to a periodontist for specialized treatment and care. If you need information or treatment in Carson regarding periodontics, our Washington Dental team is always prepared to help. We offer quality and affordable treatment for everyone in your family, whether a child or an adult. Contact us at 310-217-1507 to learn about periodontics and the periodontal treatment you need.