What Is A Periodontist And What Do They Do?

If you’re unsure of what a periodontist is, this article is going to be immensely helpful in answering all of your questions.

The short answer to the question of what a periodontist is, is that a periodontist is a dentist with specialized trainng in diagnosing and treating periodontal disese, more commonly known as gum disease.

Gum disease is a surprisingly common oral health issue that many will experience at one point or another during their lives. But just because it is commonplace does not mean that it should be taken lightly. In fact, if gum disease isn’t caught and treated in a timly manner, it will progress through various stages from mild to severe, eventually becoming a life-threatening infection.

All in all, it is easy to see hwhy a periodontist is an invaluable resource you can turn to if you suspect that you might have gum disease. Keep reading to learn more about periodontists, what kind of training they receive and how they can treat gum disease.

Periodontists are experts on gum disease diagnosis and treatment

A periodontist is a dental professional who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. 

To be able to do this, periodontists receive extensive training in periodontal treatment. Any periodontist worth their title has got all three of the following qualifications under his or her belt:

  • 4 years of dental school
  • 3-year residency in periodontics 
  • Certification by the American Board of Periodontology

During their training, periodontists learn everythin there is to know about gum disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment options, which includes both surgical and non-surgical procedures.

When to see a periodontist

All dentists receive some training on treating periodontal disease, so if you have a relatively mild case of gum disese, your regular dentist will most likely be able to provide you with the treatment you need.

However, in cases that are more complex or severe, your dentist may refer you to a specialist, a periodontist, instead.

Periodontists are able to provide treatment options that your general dentist with his or her more broad training is not a specialist at. This is specifically true for the surgical and regenerative procedures that peroodntists can provide.

If you start noticing any of the following symptoms, there is a pretty good chance that you are developing gum disease:

  • Swollen, inflamed gum tissue
  • Excess gum tissue or gum flaps
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Gum recession
  • Exposed teeth roots
  • Bone loss
  • Tooth loss

To learn more about the symptoms of both mild and severe gum disease and how you can reverse mild gum disease at home, read our article about How to Cure Gum Disease Without A Dentist.

Treating periodontal disease 

If caught in its early stages, gum disease can usually be reversed rather easily, and often without any need of surgical and invasive procedures.

Periodontal disease is almost always caused by poor oral hygiene, so if you notice any of the signs of gum disease, the first thing you should start doing to halt the periodotnal disease and prevent it from developing further is to improve your daily oral hygiene routine.

Of course, brushing and flossing properly is not necesarily enough to get rid of the stubborn tartar and plaque buildup that has caused the inflammation in the first place. 

Non-surgical periodontal procedures

In most cases, your regular dentist will be able to offer you the gum disease treatment you need, provided that no surgical intervention is needed. 

The most common non-surgical periodontal treatment options are professional deep cleaning of the teeth, gums and gum pockets, sometimes in combination with antibiotics to knock down the inflammation and reduce swelling.

Scaling and root planing

Scalign and root planing is the official name of professional oral deep cleaning, which is either performed by a dentist or an oral hygienist.

Scaling and root planing is a thorough cleaning of the entire mouth. Ir focuses on removing plaque, tartar and food debris from including the gum pockets, the gum line and the spaces between the teeth.


If your gums are very puffy and inflamed, your dentist may sometimes prescribe antibiotics to help with inflammation reduction.

Surgical and cosmetic periodontal procedures

Severe and complicated cases o periodontist disease cannot be treated by your regular dentist. It is in these cases that you should turn to a periodontist specialist.

When it isn’t caught and treated early on, periodontal disease can do a whole lot of permanent damage to the gums. This includes gum tissue recession and oral inflammation that spreads to the surronding soft tissues and facial bones.

Once the disease has escalated to this point, scaling and root planing with a side of antibiotics is not enough to halt the progress of the disease. In these cases, surgical intervention becomes necessary. 

Bone graft and gum graft surgery

In those cases where the gum disease has caused the gum line to recede, or where it has eroded some of the bone in the jaw, the periodontist may have to perform a bone or gum graft – or a combination of both.

For both gum and bone graft procedures, the periodontist transplants healthy bone or gum tissue from one part of the mouth and graft them onto the affected area. This can help to recover exposed tooth roots and reanchor teeth that have become loose due to a lack of structural support.

Dental implants

Progressed gum disese can lead to tooth loss, and if this happens to you your periodontal treatment plan may involve dental implant placement where the tooth or teeth have fallen out due to receding or loose gums caused by the disease.

Dental crown lengthening

In cases where gum disease has resulted in an excess of loose gum tissue, your periodontist may perform a dental crown lengthening procedure.

Crown lengthening is usually performed under local anesthetic and involves the removal of surpurfluous gum tissue in order to expose more of the tooth.

Frequently asked questions

What exactly does a periodontist do?

A periodontist treats severe and difficult cases of periodontal disease. 

A periodontist is able to perform a tremendous range of both surgical and non-surgical treatmetns, including scaling and root planing, gum graft surgery, bone graft surgery, regenerative treatments, ridge augmentaiton and the placement of dental implants.

What’s the difference between a dentist and a periodontist?

A dentist is a dental professional with a broad area of expertise when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of a great range of oral health problems.

A periodontist, on the other hand, is a dental professional who specializes in gum disese. In other words, periodontists are the gum disease experts.

Why would you need to see a periodontist?

If your case of gum disease is too severe or too complicated for your regular dentist to be able to treat it, this is when you should see a periodontist instead.


Left untreated, gum disese, which is a very common oral health problem, can turn into something very severe and ultimately very dangerous.

Getting the proper diagnosis and treatment is important, and this is where a periodontist may come into the picture. While any normal dentist is able to help prevent and reverse mild gum disease, only a periodontist who has undergone specialized training can treat more severe and complex cases.

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