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Dentists and Periodontists: What’s the Difference?

The term periodontist might not be a household word, but it's a word we need to know, especially as patients approach the age of 40. That's because a periodontist might be the difference in helping to keep our teeth or losing them!

So, what is a periodontist exactly? What are their qualifications and training? When might you need to see one?

Join us as we explore the answers to these questions and more.

Periodontist Definition

What is a periodontist?

Periodontists are specialist dentists. They complete an additional three years of education in order to qualify as periodontists. They focus on the gums and osseous bone/tissue. This means periodontists play an important role in helping patients keep their natural teeth (as well as assisting with overall oral health).

Gum disease (also known as periodontitis) is a big deal. About half of all Americans suffer from it. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. 

A periodontist is an expert in diagnosing and treating these potentially serious conditions. If you've already lost teeth, a periodontist can help. For patients considering dental implants, a periodontist is also the professional to see.

The Difference Between a Dentist and a Periodontist

While most dentists are able to identify and offer basic guidance on treating gum disease, periodontists are specialists who provide specific treatment solutions to patients suffering from periodontitis and other periodontal issues, such as:

• Scaling and root planing

• Tissue regeneration

• Pocket elimination surgery

• Dental implants


Before offering any of these treatments, your periodontist will perform a thorough examination. This will include an assessment of the condition of your teeth, gums, and jawbone.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is also called periodontal disease. Periodontal refers to the area around the tooth. Periodontal disease attacks this area.

The symptoms include swollen bleeding gums. However, because it is painless at first, many people do not realize they have it. Over time, the gums and bone in the jaw can be destroyed.

This shows why it is so important to visit your dentist on a regular basis. He or she will be able to spot the early signs of periodontal disease. If your case is more severe, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist.  

Symptoms to Look Out For 

If patients notice any of the following symptoms, they should consider an examination and treatment options with a periodontist:

• Bleeding gums

• Loose teeth

• Halitosis (bad breath that persists)

• Red or swollen gums

• Gum pain


Gum disease can have very serious consequences. While the impact of periodontitis on a patient’s oral health are substantial, growing evidence shows additional links to other conditions and complications, such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

Patients suffering from symptoms related to gum disease should consider requesting an examination from an experienced periodontist, such as Dr. Ryan Jenkins. In order to slow the progression of gum disease, it’s important that patients seek periodontal assistance as soon as possible.


Common Periodontal Treatments

A periodontist can provide a range of treatments for periodontal disease. These advanced treatments are typically  not available in general dentists' offices. These include advanced laser treatments.

LANAP® - Laser Gum Disease Treatment 

Laser gum disease treatment, also known as LANAP® (which stands for laser-assisted new attachment procedure) is regarded to be a more effective alternative to conventional surgery.

The laser kills bacteria selectively, without damaging healthy tissue. It is much less invasive and less painful for patients. Yet it still removes bacteria effectively, allowing patients to keep their natural teeth. Click here to learn more about this laser-assisted alternative to traditional oral surgery.

Pinhole® Technique

The Pinhole® Surgical Technique is a treatment for patients with receding gums. It does not require grafting like traditional treatments. Thus, healing time is dramatically reduced. 

The technique gently nudges the gums back into place over the teeth. This causes very little pain and there can be an instant cosmetic improvement!

Dental Implants 

Dental implants are a good, permanent solution for some patients who are missing teeth. The implant replaces the root of the missing tooth. An abutment and crown are then fitted, filling the gap left by the missing tooth.

Both dentists and periodontists can fit dental implants. However, if you have bone loss in the jaw, the procedure may be more complicated.

A periodontist can repair any underlying structural issues first. This will provide a secure base for the implant and artificial tooth.

Scaling and Root Planing

For people suffering from mild to moderate gum disease, a periodontist may perform scaling and root planing. 

This technique removes tartar and plaque from the crown and root of the tooth. The area will also be irrigated with an antibacterial agent. This can help to reduce the growth of oral bacteria. 

Root planing smooths the surface of the root. It removes unwanted microorganisms and makes it harder for bacteria to colonize the area again.  

Choose Dr. Ryan Jenkins as Your Periodontist

Now you know a little more about the difference (and similarities) between a periodontist and a general dentist. Periodontists specialize in caring for the foundation of our oral health: our gums. By helping to keep our gums in great condition and repairing problems that come up, we can enjoy strong, healthy smiles.

If your dentist has diagnosed gum disease, put yourself in the hands of a specialist. A periodontist can ensure that you get the correct diagnosis and treatment you need.

There's no need to Google 'periodontist near me'. You're already in the right place.

Dr. Jenkins and the rest of his staff are passionate about our work as well as the safety and well-being of our patients. Our office provides only the best in patient care utilizing the most updated equipment, technology, and surgical techniques. Additionally, Dr. Jenkins incorporates the top of the line dental implants and biomaterials in his practice in order to optimize surgical success for his patients and decrease the incidence of complications.

Contact us today or call on 303.309.0934 to schedule a free consultation!

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