Reviewed by Dr. Kerri Font, DDS

Dentists and periodontists are both dental professionals who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of oral health issues. However, there are some key differences between these two types of dental specialists.

In this blog, we will explain the difference between a dentist vs periodontist and instances when your dentist may refer you to a periodontist.

Table of Contents

Education and Training

One of the main differences between a dentist and a periodontist is their education and training. Both dentists and periodontists are required to have a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from an accredited dental school. However, periodontists undergo additional specialized training after completing their general dentistry degree.

Periodontists must complete an additional three years of training in the field of periodontology, which focuses on the supporting structures of teeth such as gums, bones, and ligaments. This specialized training allows them to diagnose and treat more complex oral health issues related to these specific areas.

Scope of Practice

Another key difference between dentists and periodontists is their scope of practice. Dentistry is a broad field that covers a wide range of oral health issues, including prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of common dental problems such as cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. Dentists also perform routine procedures like teeth cleanings, fillings, and extractions.

On the other hand, periodontists have a narrower scope of practice that focuses primarily on diagnosing and treating advanced gum diseases such as periodontitis. They also specialize in procedures like gum surgery, dental implants, and bone grafting.

Why Your Dentist Might Refer You to a Periodontist

There are certain conditions and situations where your dentist might refer you to a periodontist for more specialized care. Here are a few:

  • Deep cleanings: When gum disease has progressed beyond the early stages.
  • Treatment of gum disease: Especially when it involves bone loss, soft tissue damage, or requires surgical intervention.
  • Placement of dental implants: If you have lost a tooth or multiple teeth, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for the placement of dental implants.
  • Complex cases of gum recession: Where grafting or more advanced treatment options are necessary.

Periodontal Procedures

Periodontal procedures are essential treatments for various gum diseases and conditions. Among these, scaling and root planing, gum graft procedures, and gingival flap surgery are widely recognized for their effectiveness in treating periodontal issues.

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning procedure that goes beyond the usual teeth cleaning received during a routine visit to a dentist. This non-surgical treatment targets the removal of plaque and tartar buildup both above and below the gum line. 

Scaling involves scraping away plaque and tartar from the tooth surfaces and beneath the gums, while root planing smooths out the roots of the teeth to help the gums reattach to the teeth. 

This process helps to reduce gum inflammation, improve gum health, and can significantly mitigate the progression of gum disease.

Gum Graft Procedure

A gum graft procedure is typically performed to treat gum recession, a condition where the margin of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth wears away or pulls back, exposing more of the tooth or the tooth’s root. 

This procedure involves taking tissue from the roof of the mouth or using synthetic materials and grafting it to the affected area. This not only reduces further gum recession and bone loss but also covers exposed roots to protect them from decay and reduce tooth sensitivity.

Gingival Flap Surgery

Gingival flap surgery is a surgical procedure used when scaling and root planing are insufficient to treat periodontal disease, especially in cases of severe periodontitis. 

During this procedure, the periodontist makes incisions in the gums to form a flap. This allows direct access to the roots and bone supporting the teeth for deep cleaning. After thoroughly cleaning and removing disease-causing bacteria, the periodontist will secure the gum tissue back into place. 

Sometimes, it may involve reshaping or regenerating the bone around the teeth to reduce pockets where bacteria can grow. This procedure effectively reduces the depth of the periodontal pockets and helps in maintaining oral hygiene and health.

These procedures highlight the specialized capabilities of periodontists in treating conditions that go beyond the reach of regular dental care, emphasizing their critical role in maintaining oral health.

Highlands Ranch Periodontics & Implant Center

Your Periodontist in Highlands Ranch, CO

Our experienced periodontists, Dr. Kerri Font, DDS, and Dr. Mike Norouzinia, DDS, provide specialized care for all your gum and implant needs. We understand the importance of maintaining good oral health and are dedicated to helping you achieve it.

If you would like your dentist to refer you to one of our specialists, have them fill out our referral form. To book an appointment or for inquiries, call (303) 683-1144. We look forward to helping  you achieve a healthy and beautiful smile!

FAQs About Periodontists

Is a periodontist better than a dentist?

Dentists and periodontists both play crucial roles in maintaining oral health, but their areas of expertise and scope of practice differ. If you have a specific issue related to your gums or supporting structures of your teeth, a periodontist may be better suited to address it due to their specialized training and experience.

Can a regular dentist treat periodontal disease?

Yes, a regular dentist can treat milder forms of periodontal disease. However, for more severe cases or advanced stages of gum disease, a periodontist may be better equipped to provide specialized care and treatment.

Do I need a referral from my dentist to see a periodontist?

In most cases, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist if they feel that you may benefit from specialized care. However, if you have a specific concern regarding your gums or dental implants, you can directly schedule an appointment with a periodontist without a referral.

When should you see a periodontist?

You should see a periodontist if you experience any symptoms of gum disease, have been referred by your dentist, or are considering dental implants. It’s also recommended to see a periodontist if you have a family history of gum disease or have certain health conditions that may increase your risk for developing gum disease. Regular check-ups with a periodontist can help maintain good oral health and prevent any potential issues from progressing. 

Additional Resources

What Does a Periodontist Do For Receding Gums?

What is a Periodontal Cleaning?

Your Guide to Laser Treatment for Gum Disease

Categories: Periodontics