Definition & Overview

If your dentist informs you that you’ll need to see a periodontist for consultation, it can only mean that there’s a problem with your gums or jawbones that falls out of the scope of regular dental treatment. Dentists can treat a variety of dental problems, such as an abscessed tooth that requires extraction or root canal treatment, but for diseases such as periodontitis or gingivitis, it’s best that you acquire the expertise of a periodontist.

Periodontal diseases are described as infections of the structures that support the teeth, such as the gums and jawbones. If left untreated, such infections can spread and could result in a variety of major health concerns. Research has proven the connection between these diseases and major health problems including cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes, respiratory diseases, and premature births.

Therefore, if your dentist requests that you visit a periodontist, don’t take the request lightly. It's best that you receive treatment for the periodontal disease before it causes any major damage, if it hasn’t already.

Periodontal consultation can take an hour or even longer depending on the extent of your dental problems. If the periodontist discovers that you require immediate treatment, then expect to spend a couple of hours at his/her office.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Most of the time, patients who need to undergo periodontal consultation are referred to the periodontist by their dentist. However, since some periodontists also perform regular dental work, there may be patients who were not referred but chose to consult the periodontist directly for other dental concerns.

One of the signs that you’ll need to consult a periodontist instead of your regular dentist is if you notice that your gums are bleeding after brushing or flossing your teeth. Contrary to popular belief that it is normal for gums to bleed, bleeding gums is a sure sign of an infection.

After the consultation, you can expect the periodontist to either prescribe medications to treat the infection or to advise you to undergo a certain procedure, such as deep pocket cleaning, root planing, soft tissue removal, or hard tissue recontouring.

How Does the Procedure Work?

A periodontal consultation will normally begin with a short interview. The periodontist will ask questions concerning your lifestyle, medical history, and dental hygiene. You will need to provide information about your past and current health concerns as these can be the result of or result in a periodontal disease.

After the interview, the periodontist will assess your teeth, gums, neck, jaw joints, throat, and entire mouth. You will then be asked to undergo a series of x-rays, which can include a periapical x-ray to identify a pattern of bone loss, and a panoramic radiograph, which is an x-ray of the entire mouth.

Once the periodontist has studied the images, he or she will provide a diagnosis of your condition. You’ll be informed of the type of periodontal disease and the ideal treatment. It’s important to understand that there is no single treatment for all types of periodontal diseases. In fact, two people with the same disease could be treated differently, simply because periodontal diseases normally affect a person’s health in different ways.

You will then be given the opportunity to ask any questions concerning the disease or treatment. If you were advised to undergo a certain procedure, you should understand what the procedure is and why it is needed. Always remember that any procedure has its risks and the possibility of complications.

Possible Complications and Risks

A periodontal consultation usually only involves diagnosing the condition and recommending a form of treatment. Therefore, there should not be any risk or complications with the procedure itself. However, if you are asked to undergo a procedure or imaging tests, then there will be risks and possibility of complications.

Some people may be concerned about the radiation involved when undergoing a dental x-ray. Rest assured that the level of radiation is low that the procedure is safe for children and adults. If the x-ray produces a digital image instead of film, then radiation exposure is even lower.

However, to every rule there is an exception. In this case, the exception involves pregnant women. If you know that you are pregnant or believe that you may be pregnant, inform your periodontist of your condition. Any type of x-ray is not safe for a developing fetus, so the periodontist may request a safer form of imaging test or forgo certain types of treatment until after the pregnancy.

Treatment for a periodontal disease may involve surgery. As with any type of surgery, periodontal surgery also has risks and possibilities of complications. Make sure that the periodontist explains what those risks are before you agree to undergo the procedure. You might also want to get a second opinion to ensure that the procedure is indeed required for your particular case.

Reference: * American Academy of Periodontology.

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