What Is a Periodontist and Signs You Should See One


Periodontists specialize in treating specific oral health issues that can lead to debilitating dental problems. To determine whether you need to see one, consider the following. 

What Is a Periodontist?

According to the ADA, the periodontist definition is a dental professional who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. To become a periodontist, dentists must attain three extra years of education beyond standard dental school. This gives them expertise in performing cosmetic and restorative periodontal procedures that prioritize both aesthetics and function. 

In addition to being gum specialists, periodontists are able to offer a broad array of treatments, including scaling and root planing, during which they clean the infected surface of a tooth’s root. They also perform root surface debridement, where they remove damaged tissue. 

When to See a Periodontist

According to research, about 47.2% of U.S. adults over the age of 30 suffer from some sort of gum disease. Does that mean all of these people need to see a periodontist?

Not necessarily.

In some instances, a family dentist can effectively treat early symptoms of gum disease and other related oral issues, as long as the problem hasn’t advanced past a certain point. If you’re not sure whether your oral health issue is serious enough to require treatment from a periodontist, look for the following 5 signs:

1. You have noticed a change in your bite.

If your teeth feel different while chewing, talking or brushing, you should see a periodontist. Different bite patterns can point toward specific issues that can cause long-term problems without proper treatment. A periodontist can determine the reasons for these changes and suggest appropriate treatment options that can help solve the problem.

2. You have red, swollen or bleeding gums.

This is one of the most obvious signs that you should see a periodontist. Watch closely to see if your gums bleed when you floss or brush. If they do, seek input from a qualified periodontist, so you can address relatively minor issues before they evolve into expensive and painful problems.

3. Your teeth feel loose.

Loose teeth can be a sign of thinning bone and serious infections, such as periodontitis. If you have noticed that your teeth have begun to feel a little loose, you should definitely visit a periodontist. Even if you think it is just your imagination, it’s a good idea to schedule an examination, since this could be a very early sign of serious gum disease and underlying bone damage.

4. Your gums are receding.

Although our gums naturally recede as we age, it shouldn’t be very noticeable. If you think your teeth look longer when you look in the mirror, this could be a sign of advanced gum recession resulting from periodontal disease. Book an appointment with a local periodontist to find out for sure.

5. You have pain and discomfort.

Oral pain can usually be traced to a specific tooth. If you notice discomfort within, around or underneath your gums, however, this could be a sign of a serious issue. Schedule a comprehensive examination with your dentist to uncover the root of the problem, so you can get it treated in time. Your general dentist can recommend the best next steps and whether or not you should visit a periodontist.

What is the Difference Between Dentist and Periodontist?

While traditional dentists are able to diagnose and treat a wide range of oral health issues; periodontists specialize in the placement of dental implants and the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease.

In some instances, traditional dentists can treat minor gum issues; however, they will usually refer patients to periodontists for more severe problems.

If you’re interested in learning more about periodontal disease, explore our periodontal infographic here.