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What Is Periodontics?

The parts of a tooth.
A dentist examines a patient's teeth and gums.
A periodontist may implant artificial teeth in the mouths of people who have lost their natural ones.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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Periodontics is a dental specialty which revolves around the management of periodontal disease. Periodontists can work as researchers, improving the understanding of periodontal disease in the medical community and developing new treatments, and they can also work as practicing periodontists providing patient interventions. In order to become a periodontist, it is necessary to attend dental school, followed by a residency in periodontics; training can take a minimum of 11 years.

The word “periodontal” comes from the Greek for “around the teeth.” Specialists in the field of periodontics are interested in conditions which involve the underlying support structures for the teeth, including the alveolar bone and the gums. Periodontal disease and congenital malformations can lead to the loss of teeth in addition to extreme discomfort for the patient, and periodontal disease has also been linked with cardiovascular disease. The connection between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease is a cause for concern in many communities where people neglect their teeth due to the inability to afford dental care or out of fear of the dentist.

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Prevention is a big focus in periodontics. By showing people how to avoid periodontal disease in the first place, specialists hope to avoid many of the complications associated with it. If disease cannot be prevented, early detection and prompt intervention is the next step. Interventions can include both surgical and nonsurgical techniques to manage and treat periodontal disease, including scaling to remove plaque, dental implants, and even regular tooth cleaning to remove plaque before it gets a chance to build up. In cases where patients have abnormalities, treatment options can include surgery and the use of orthodontic devices.

Bacterial plaque is a prominent area of focus in periodontics. Plaque builds up on the teeth over time, even in the most well-maintained mouth, and bacterial colonization of the teeth can lead to issues such as gum disease and infection of the underlying bones in the jaw. Developing ways to address plaque is a topic of interest in many research facilities, and patient education about the risks of plaque is an important part of a periodontics practice.

Dental patients with severe periodontal problems may be referred to a periodontist for treatment, including periodontal surgery. People with a history of periodontal disease may prefer to see a periodontics specialist for regular dental treatment, to ensure that any problems are caught and addressed early if they recur. These medical specialists can use a variety of techniques to help their patients manage periodontal disease and to prevent it from progressing to a dangerous level.

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