PERIODONTICS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
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Because many people are unfamiliar with periodontology, it is not uncommon to have questions regarding the field, such as: What qualifies a person to become a periodontist? How do I know if I need to see a periodontist? How do I select a good periodontist in my area?
If you have any questions and would like to learn more about what periodontology is and/or if it is right for you, please read the following responses to commonly asked questions.
WHAT ARE PERIODONTISTS QUALIFIED TO DO?
Periodontists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease, as well as a variety of specialized dental procedures. Periodontists are qualified to place dental implants as well as monitor the implants to ensure they are functioning properly. Periodontists are also qualified to cover exposed root surfaces and correct gum recession, which are procedures that are commonly done leading up to a cosmetic procedure. Periodontists are also qualified to work with general dentists and patients to develop a comprehensive and individualized plan for overall oral care
WHO IS BETTER EQUIPPED TO TREAT MY PERIODONTAL DISEASE: MY GENERAL DENTIST OR A PERIODONTIST?
It is a good idea to have both a general dentist and a periodontist that you trust, as doing so will provide you with a broader and more holistic level of support. By taking a team approach to your oral health, your periodontist and dentist will be able to develop a personalized treatment plan that is designed to your specific needs.
ARE TREATMENTS COVERED UNDER MEDICARE OR MEDICAID?
Although Medicare does not currently cover dental treatments, coverage from Medicaid does vary from state to state. It is a good idea to check with your provider to see what periodontal treatments are covered by your plan.
WHAT IS THE LINK BETWEEN GUM DISEASE AND CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE?
There is significant research that suggest periodontal disease can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease forming. Both diseases are inflammatory, and since periodontal disease left untreated can increase inflammation throughout the body, this likely can result in other health complications; however, more research is needed to definitively prove a link exists.
WILL TOPICAL ANTIBIOTIC TREATMENT BE NECESSARY FOR SCALING AND ROOT PLANING PROCEDURES?
The American Academy of Periodontology does approve the use of antibiotic treatment for root planing and scaling procedures, however every patient will have unique needs, so it is important that you consult with your periodontist to determine which antibiotic is right for you.
ARE MY CHILDREN AT RISK FOR PERIODONTAL DISEASE?
Although periodontal disease does not commonly occur in children, it is important to teach children good oral hygiene habits and the importance of keeping their mouth healthy early on so they can avoid periodontal disease later in life. Be sure to teach your children to brush twice daily and practice regular flossing. If they engage in these two simple acts, they have an excellent chance of never developing any issues later in life.
In addition to supporting good daily habits, it is also important to be aware of common warning signs that might suggest periodontal disease might be forming. This includes gums that are swollen, bleeding, or red, as well as chronic halitosis. If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, it is a good idea to contact your periodontist as soon as possible.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PLAQUE AND CALCULUS?
Plaque is a colorless, sticky film that can build up on your teeth and be home to millions of bacteria, which in turn irritates your gums and causes your teeth to decay. When this occurs, your body can develop gingivitis and/or periodontal disease.
If plaque is left untreated long enough, or if you neglect to brush or floss for too long, the plaque will harden and become calculus (or tartar). When this point has been reached, it is no longer possible to remove this with a toothbrush, so a professional cleaning will have to be scheduled.
If you practice good oral hygiene habits by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing regularly, and going to your checkups every six months, you should be able to keep plaque and calculus from progressing.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH PERIODONTAL DISEASE?
One of the trickiest things about periodontal disease is that it can exist for some time and not present itself until the disease has advanced. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, this may be an indication that periodontal disease has formed.
- Bleeding that occurs after brushing or flossing
- Swollen or tender gums
- Unexplained mouth pain
- Receding gums
- Pus between teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- Mouth sores
- Change in the feel of your bite
- Change in the feel or fit of your dentures
- Chronic halitosis
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your periodontist to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
WHAT ARE THE BEST MEASURES FOR PREVENTING PERIODONTAL DISEASE FROM DEVELOPING?
Practicing good oral hygiene at home is the best way to prevent periodontal disease from developing. Be sure to brush at least twice a day. It is also important to floss regularly and schedule regular visits with your dentist.
I CAN’T AFFORD THE SUGGESTED TREATMENT MY PERIODONTIST HAS SUGGESTED. WHAT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
If you are unable to afford the suggested treatment, please talk to your periodontist about possible financing options, including a payment plan. Most periodontists will also know what types of insurance plans will cover the cost of your procedure. Additionally, consider contacting a nearby college or university, which often offer dental care at a reduced rate.
IS THERE ANY PROVEN LINK BETWEEN GUM DISEASE AND HEART DISEASE?
There are several compelling research studies indicating there may be a link between heart disease and gum disease, but there is still no definitive proof this is the case. If you suffer or are at risk for heart disease, be sure to mention this to your periodontist, as they may have additional information to provide you concerning this topic.
WHAT LINK, IF ANY, IS THERE BETWEEN PERIODONTAL DISEASE AND DIABETES?
There are several compelling research studies indicating that there is a link between diabetes and gum disease. Regardless, people who have diabetes are much more likely to develop periodontal problems, primarily because they are at an increased risk of contracting infections. Current research also suggests that individuals who take steps to improve their periodontal hygiene have positive results in positively affecting their blood sugar levels.
MY PARENTS BOTH STRUGGLED WITH PERIODONTAL DISEASE. AM I AT A GREATER GENETIC RISK AND IS THERE ANY TESTING THAT CAN BE DONE TO DETERMINE IF THIS IS THE CASE?
Research suggests that there may be a genetic link when it comes to an individual’s likelihood of developing gum disease, however there are many other factors that are definitively known to play more significant roles.
I HAVE RECENTLY BEEN INFORMED THAT I AM EXHIBITING SIGNS OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE. HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT PERIODONTIST?
One of the easiest ways to finding a periodontist who is geographically close and well respected is to ask your regular dentist for a recommendation. Most dentists will have a professional relationship with a local periodontist and have a general understanding of what services they specialize in.
Asking friends, family, or coworkers is another great method for finding a good periodontist in your area. You will generally receive straightforward feedback on the quality and comprehensiveness of services offered, as well as firsthand information about what you can expect from your visit.
If your dentist or friends and family do not have any recommendations, or you would prefer not to take this approach, web searches also generally yield results. Just be sure to include your area zip code and check their homepage to see if they offer the type of services you are looking for.
I HAVE RECENTLY LOST A TOOTH AND AM CONSIDERING AN IMPLANT. WHAT ARE THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH HAVING THIS DONE?
Trade laws prohibit the American Academy of Periodontology from tracking these costs. Additionally, costs of procedures vary greatly depending upon if the clinic is in a rural or urban area, and is also contingent on the quantity of implants needed, as well as what type of implant is needed. If you have any questions concerning the cost of this procedure, you should discuss this with your periodontist. You may also want to call several other clinics in the area if possible to determine the range of costs for this procedure.
I HAVE RECENTLY BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH PERIODONTAL DISEASE. HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO HAVE AN EXAMINATION?
It is important to schedule regular examinations in order to monitor the current status of your periodontal disease, as well as monitor its progression over a period of time. Discuss what type of maintenance schedule works best for you with your periodontist, who will determine the frequency of necessary visits based upon the severity of your particular case. There are many variables surrounding your health that your periodontist will take into account when determining the schedule and its frequency, including how advanced your disease is, if you are a smoker or not, genetic predisposition, the state of your health in general, etc. If your case is more severe, they may recommend regular exams every few months, and for less severe cases, exams every six months.
I AM SELF-CONSCIOUS ABOUT THE RATIO OF MY GUMS TO MY TEETH, SO MUCH SO THAT I AVOID SMILING WHENEVER POSSIBLE. ARE THERE ANY PROCEDURES THAT CAN HELP ME IMPROVE THE LOOK OF MY SMILE?
If you are currently struggling with feelings of self-consciousness because you have a “gummy smile”, please talk to your periodontist about whether or not a crown lengthening procedure is right for you. Your periodontist will be happy to talk to you about the benefits of removing excess gum tissue to create a more proportional balance between the surface of your teeth and the amount of gum that is visible. Your dentist and/or periodontist may also suggest alternate procedures, such as crowns or veneers. Regardless, it is important to know that there are options available to help you have the smile you want and deserve.
WHAT CONSEQUENCES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH MISSING TEETH?
Having missing teeth creates a wide variety of negative consequences beyond simple aesthetics. When you have missing teeth, the skin surrounding the mouth will begin to sag, due to lack of proper support, which will make a person appear to be older than they are. Having a missing tooth or missing will also increase the difficulty in chewing certain types of food. Finally, many people experience feelings of self-doubt and insecurity when they are missing a tooth or teeth. If you currently have any missing teeth, please contact your periodontist to learn more about dental implants.
ARE ANY PERIODONTAL DISEASES CONTAGIOUS?
Research indicates that periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that forms under the gums, which results in an inflammatory reaction. As such, the disease is likely not contagious; however, since the bacteria that is responsible for causing this reaction is transmittable through saliva, it is a good idea to avoid sharing forks, spoons, or other saliva carrying utensils or equipment with others who have periodontal disease. If you or anyone you know is exhibiting any signs of periodontal disease (swollen or red gums, bleeding, chronic halitosis) it is a good idea to schedule an exam in order to protect the health of them, yourself, and your family.