What is a Periodontist?
A periodontist has completed a postgraduate specialist degree in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease and the placement of dental implants. The speciality is recognised and registered by the Health Professions Council of South Africa and also includes training in the field of Oral Medicine, which includes diseases like fungal infections, sores or growths in the oral cavity and monitoring for Oral Cancer. Periodontists undergo 4 additional years of studying after qualifying as a dentist. They are familiar with the latest techniques in the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease, and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal surgical procedures used in smile design. This is known as Periodontal Plastic Surgery.
Periodontists offer a wide range of treatments for gum disease, from a simple scaling to a more advanced root planing where the infected surface of the root is cleaned under local anaesthesia. They can also treat patients with advanced gum problems using a range of surgical procedures which may involve the regeneration of lost bone around teeth.
In addition, periodontists are specially trained in the placement, maintenance, and repair of dental implants. Although periodontists are trained primarily to save and not extract teeth, they undergo extensive training in placing implants once teeth have been lost. Their training in preserving and rebuilding gum and bone around teeth compliments the placement of dental implants to rebuild the lost dentition as close as possible to its natural state.
During the initial consultation, the periodontist reviews the patient’s complete medical and dental histories as many medications may impact the health of the gums and bone around teeth. It is also important to know whether the patient is being treated for any condition that can affect periodontal care, such as heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy or medications/infections that may affect the immune system.
During that initial consultation the periodontist will also examine your gums with specialized instruments to check for infection and/or damage to the gums from brushing or excessive bite forces. All consultations will also include a screening for any other oral diseases or infections, including Oral Cancer. Should there be any evidence of gum infection, x-ray images will have to be taken to assess the damage to the underlying bone.
In the case of planning for dental implants, State-of-the-Art CT scanning can be done in our practice to assess the bone in great detail and to ensure no damage will be done to the surrounding structures during implant placement.
Who should see a Periodontist?
Mild infections of the periodontium (gum and tooth bone) can be managed by the general dentist. More advanced forms of periodontal disease, especially if seen in young people, may require a greater understanding and increased level of expertise by a specialist periodontist. Gum disease in patients with other chronic diseases such as Cardio-Vascular disease, Diabetes or Immune Suppression, should also be seen by a specialist periodontist as gum infection poses a risk to the systemic health of such patients. Patients who present with moderate to severe levels of periodontal disease, or patients with more complex cases, will be best managed by a partnership between the dentist, the oral hygienist and periodontist.
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