Periodontics is the realm of dentistry that focuses on the health of anatomical structures around the teeth. This includes the gum tissues, the jawbones, and the tiny ligaments attaching the teeth to the bone. Dentists who specialize in periodontics, called periodontists, receive three years of additional education and training in a residency and pass an optional rigorous board certification. Dr. Shalom Mintz passed his boards in 2009 on his first attempt.
Periodontics involves the treatment of periodontal disease, the number one cause for tooth loss, commonly referred to as gum disease. Because the disease is a complicated one, there is a wide range of techniques and therapies used to treat it. Seeing a periodontist for the treatment of gum disease produces the highest success rates, meaning you keep your natural teeth for as long as possible.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis, is an inflammatory disease that destroys the jawbone that is surrounding and supporting the teeth. The Center for Disease Control recently estimated that almost half (47.2%) of American adults have some form of periodontal disease. In adults that are 65 years and older, the percentage is 70.1%. The disease begins with a bacterial infection of the gums. These bacteria produce harmful toxins, and the body responds by sending inflammation. The initial inflammation may cause redness, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding in the gums (gingivitis). In smokers, these signs may not be present/evident.
If untreated, this inflammatory response to the toxic bacteria begins to destroy the bone surrounding the tooth and becomes a chronic disease process. Over time, as the supporting bone is lost, teeth can loosen and eventually fall out.
Periodontal disease can affect one small area of the mouth or every single tooth. It can progress very slowly in some people and very rapidly in others. The initial cause is the bacterial infection, and there are many other factors that influence the disease. Smoking and diabetes all make periodontitis more difficult to treat.
Why is Periodontal Disease a Big Deal?
Obviously, anything that could cause you to lose your teeth is a big deal. There are a few important reasons why periodontal disease, in particular, needs special attention.
A Silent Disease
We often call periodontal disease a “silent” disease because it is very common for people to be completely unaware of its presence. The initial stage of gingivitis may cause some noticeable symptoms, but the following stages often do not. Without pain or swelling, it is easy for someone who does not see a dentist regularly to be clueless about the slow, quiet erosion of the foundation around his or her teeth.
Link to Overall Health
Even more important than its silent progression is its link to the health of the rest of your body. Countless scientific studies show a link between both the inflammatory and infectious components of periodontal disease and other serious medical conditions. Untreated gum disease can make it more difficult to control blood sugar, causing a negative effect on diabetes. Periodontal disease is associated with increases in a person’s risk for coronary heart disease, fatal heart attack, and stroke. A recent study found a specific type of bacteria associated with gum disease in plaques in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients.
Untreated periodontal disease does not stay in the mouth. It can affect the whole body!
What Other Conditions Does a Periodontist Treat?
Periodontists treat many other conditions in the mouth in addition to gum disease. They perform cosmetic dentistry by improving the appearance of the gums. They surgically place dental implants as an anchor for your dentist to replace missing teeth. They improve the shape and size of the jawbone in areas waiting for dental implants. They also perform extractions and sinus lifts to prepare for implants. The list goes on.
Gum recession may be the result of gum disease, but it also occurs in healthy mouths. Heavy teeth grinding, iatrogenic tooth brushing, or inappropriate orthodontic movement of the teeth can lead to recession, too. Your periodontist can choose from several techniques to either move or replace gum tissue to cover the roots of the teeth. This improves both tooth sensitivity and the appearance of your smile.
Excessive Gum Tissue
Some people actually have too much gum tissue or a “gummy” smile. Periodontists often work in conjunction with cosmetic dentists to remove excess gum tissue and create beautiful smiles. We also remove gum tissue to give your dentist access to a deep cavity.
Treating Missing Teeth
Dental implants are, without a doubt, the best way to replace a missing tooth. Being the expert in the tissues surrounding a tooth, your periodontist is also the expert in placing dental implants into those tissues. The implant itself replaces the root of a tooth, and your dentist builds a crown onto the implant to replace the exposed portion of the tooth.
Because periodontal disease can affect dental implants (called peri-implantitis), your periodontist also cares for any problems that arise with dental implants.
Replacing missing teeth with dental implants requires a minimum amount of jawbone. In patients who do not meet that minimum, additional treatment is required to build up that area of bone. Bone grafting procedures improve the width and height of bone available for a dental implant.
Experienced Endodontists at Rockland Dental Specialists
Rockland Dental Specialists offers endodontic care in the New City, NY area. Dr. Lisa Nava Cohen and Dr. Shalom Mintz are here to bring you excellent oral care with more than two decades of combined experience. They are passionate about helping patients resolve their gum disease and maintain their overall oral health. Contact us today at (845) 809-0109 to speak with one of our team members about the endodontic services we offer or book an appointment online here.
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