What’s The Difference Between A Periodontist And A Dentist?

Imagine you're on a quiz show and for the final question, the host asks you the following question: "what's the difference between a periodontist and a dentist?" Think you might get the answer wrong? Don't worry – it's something that most people don't think about and, as a result, both titles are often used interchangeably. The following explains the differences between the two and which one you should go to for your dental needs.

Dentists Offer General Dental Care

Dentists normally deal with regular dental care procedures, ranging from standard X-rays and regularly-scheduled teeth cleanings to more in-depth tasks like root canals and tooth extractions. Dentists also perform a number of specialized cosmetic procedures, including teeth whitening and veneers.

A general dentist's care can help put your dental health back on track, but there's only so much your dentist can do. When it comes to severe issues (such as mouth pain, tender gums and loose teeth) caused by periodontal disease, you may end up seeing a periodontist, instead.  

Periodontists Offer Advanced Dental Care

As the name suggests, a periodontist specializes in dealing with severe gum and bone diseases – problems that are often beyond the scope of a general dentist. For instance, you'll need to consult with a periodontist if you need significant changes done to the hard and soft tissue that makes up your gums. Other procedures, such as bone grafting, root planing and implant replacements, are commonly done under the careful eyes of periodontists.

What really separates dentists and periodontists is the extensive, specialized training the latter receives for diagnosing and treating gum disease. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontists usually receive an additional 3 years of education outside of their dental school studies.

Think of general dentistry as something that scratches the surface of your dental health, whereas periodontology digs deeper, specializing in tackling gum disease issues that often cause tooth pain issues and gum line deterioration.

Which Should You Visit?

That actually depends on your current dental health and the procedures you'll need to undergo. If your teeth just need periodic cleaning, cavity fillings or even a root canal, then having it done by a dentist is usually your best bet.

On the other hand, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist if there's a gum-related or surgically-intensive procedure that needs to be done. This includes bone grafts, deep pocket cleanings, soft tissue removal and implant replacement. If you happen to suffer from advanced periodontal disease, then you're likely to end up in the periodontist's chair.  For more information, contact a periodontal clinic, like Periodontal Specialists.