Dentist vs. Periodontist. What’s the difference?

Dentist vs. Periodontist. What’s the difference?

November 1, 2022

If you have an advanced dental problem, you might be confused about whether to visit a general dentist or a specialist. Many people have interacted with a general dentist. Thus, you might wonder when you need to see a periodontist. In this article, let’s review the difference between the two.

What is a dentist?

We are familiar with general dentists since we visit them for routine dental checkups and cleaning treatments. Generally, a general dentist is the primary health care provider responsible for managing a patient’s oral health through the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral issues.

A qualified dentist must have completed at least four years of dental school. They have training and expertise to perform various dental services, including:

  • Diagnosing and treating oral diseases like tooth decay and gum disease
  • Oral health education
  • Routine dental exams, x-rays, and cleanings
  • Oral cancer screenings
  • Preventive care and treatments
  • Dental treatments include cavity filling, crowns, tooth extractions, bridges, root canals, and dentures.
  • Gum disease treatments

When to see a dentist

Generally, regardless of your oral health, you should see your dentist every six months for routine assessments and cleanings. They are essential for removing bacterial plaque and tartar, reducing the risk of developing oral infections. Oral exams also allow for early detection and treatment of oral problems.

Apart from the routine exams, you can see a general dentist if you experience any dental issues or symptoms such as:

  • Jaw or tooth pain
  • Cavities or holes in the tooth
  • Dental damage like chips, cracks, and breaks
  • Sore, red, bleeding, or sensitive gums
  • Cosmetic issues such as teeth stains
  • Improper teeth gaps or misalignments
  • Soft tissue injuries

A general dentist can address all these issues. However, they will refer you to a specialist if you have an advanced problem that requires specialized diagnosis and treatment.

What is a Periodontist?

To become a periodontist, one must complete four years of medical school and three years of residency program or training in periodontics and implant dentistry. A periodontist is a dental professional focusing on preventing, diagnosing, and treating issues affecting gums, periodontal ligaments, and bone.

These components comprise the periodontium structure that provides a solid foundation and support for the teeth. They primarily focus on periodontal disease. “Peri” stands for “around,” while “dontal” means dental or related to the teeth.

Periodontal diseases typically occur due to poor oral hygiene, resulting in an infection of the gums. For instance, when you don’t brush and floss well, leftover food particles mix with the harmful bacteria, leading to a buildup of bacterial plaque and tartar.

Over time, these deposit release toxic chemicals that irritate, infect, and inflame the gum tissues. You can experience gum soreness, swelling, bleeding, recession, tooth mobility and sensitivity, and bad breath. If left untreated, the infection spreads to nearby tissues like the tooth’s connective tissues and bone, leading to more severe outcomes.

Periodontists ensure the prevention and early diagnosis and treatment of these diseases to improve a patient’s oral health. In addition, they can place dental implants to provide a stable foundation for artificial teeth.

When should you see a Periodontist?

Generally, it’s best to see your dentist first. They will examine your mouth and refer you to a periodontist if necessary. However, below are common signs that you should see a periodontist:

  • Change of bite – the teeth feel different when chewing.
  • Loose or falling teeth – advanced gum disease weakens the structures that support teeth, leading to tooth mobility or loss.
  • Receding gums are gums pulling away from the teeth, creating periodontal pockets.
  • Gum infection can make your teeth and gums sore and painful.
  • Bleeding often happens when brushing or eating.

All these signs indicate that your gums are infected and the infection is spreading. Thus, you should visit a dentist near you right away. Depending on your symptoms, the dentist or periodontist can recommend treatments like:

Schedule an appointment today with our dentist in Dover, NH

Are you interested in general and periodontal treatment near you? Book a dentist appointment at Belknap Dental Associates to speak with our dentists in Dover, NH.

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