Different Types of Dental Specialists
What's a Periodontist?
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the soft tissues of the mouth and the underlying jawbone which supports the teeth. A dentist must first graduate from an accredited dental school before undertaking an additional three years of study within a periodontology residency training program, in order to qualify as a periodontist.
The primary focus of this residency training is on both surgical and non surgical management of periodontal disease and the placement of dental implants.
Conditions Treated by a Periodontist
The periodontist is mainly concerned with: preventing the onset of gum disease (periodontal disease); diagnosing conditions affecting the gums and jawbone; and treating gingivitis, periodontitis, and bone loss. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition and the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world.
The periodontist is able to treat mild, moderate and advanced gum disease by first addressing the bacterial infection at the root of the problem, providing periodontal treatment, then providing information and education on good oral hygiene and the effective cleaning of the teeth.
The most common conditions treated by a periodontist are:
Gingivitis – This is the mild inflammation of the gums which may or may not be signified by pain and bleeding.
Mild/moderate periodontitis – When the pockets between the teeth and the soft tissues are measured to be between 4-6mm it is classified as moderate periodontitis (gum disease).
Advanced periodontitis – When the pockets between the teeth and the soft tissues in general exceed 6mm in depth, significant bone loss may occur; causing shifting or loss of teeth.
Missing teeth – When teeth are missing as a result of bone loss, the periodontist can implant prosthetic teeth. These teeth are anchored to the jawbone and restore functionality to the mouth.
Treatments Performed by a Periodontist
The periodontist is able to perform a wide range of treatments to halt the progression of gum disease, replace missing teeth and make the appearance of the smile more aesthetically pleasing.
Here are some of the treatments commonly performed by the periodontist:
Implant placement – When a tooth or several teeth are missing, the periodontist is able to create a natural-looking replacement by anchoring a prosthetic tooth to the jawbone.
Osteoplasty (hard tissue recontouring) – Once periodontitis has been treated, the periodontist can recontour the hard tissue to make the smile both natural-looking and aesthetically pleasing.
Gingivoplasty (soft tissue recontouring) – As gums recede due to periodontitis, the teeth may appear longer; causing a “toothy" smile. The periodontist can remove tissues or straighten the gum line to make the teeth look more even.
Bone grafting – Dental implants can only be positioned if there is sufficient bone to attach the prosthetic tooth to. If bone loss has occurred, bone grafting is an excellent way to add or “grow” bone so that an implant may be properly secured.
Deep pocket cleanings – As gingivitis and periodontitis progress, it becomes more difficult to cleanse the pockets between the soft tissues and the teeth. The periodontist can scale and root plane the teeth (sometimes under local anesthetic) to remove debris and infection-causing bacteria.
Crown lengthening – In order to expose more of the natural tooth, the periodontist can remove some of the surrounding gingival tissue.
The periodontist is a highly skilled dental health professional who is able to diagnose and treat many commonly occurring soft tissue and bone problems in the oral cavity.
What's a Prosthodontist?
A prosthodontist is a highly educated dental specialist dedicated to the health of your entire mouth. Prosthodontists take a whole mouth approach, undergoing intense training beyond general dentistry to focus on some of the most advanced procedures in dentistry. They perform cosmetic procedures to enhance the appearance of your smile and restorative procedures to help patients with missing or damaged teeth. Prosthodontists don’t just make teeth look better, they help your whole mouth function better too.
How is a Prosthodontist different from other dentists and dental specialists?
The term “prostho” means replacement and “dontist” means dealing with teeth. Essentially, prosthodontists are THE recognized experts when anything needs to be replaced in your mouth. This can range from a single tooth, multiple teeth, or all teeth and gums in the mouth. While many other dentists can do some of these treatments, prosthodontists are the specialists dedicated to this type of care.
Prosthodontists have advanced training in restoring and replacing teeth. Prosthodontists are considered the leaders of the dental treatment plan. They regularly lead teams of general dentists, specialists, and other health professionals to develop solutions for your dental needs.
Prosthodontist vs. General Dentist
Many people don’t know the difference between a general dentist and a prosthodontist. Whilst some general dentists perform cosmetic and restorative dentistry, there is a significantly different level of skill and expertise between a general dentist and a prosthodontist. Having completed 3 or more years of specialized training, prosthodontists are well versed in cosmetic and restorative dental procedures. They are uniquely qualified to perform cosmetic dentistry and advanced restorative dental procedures like dental implants and full-mouth reconstruction.
The treatment goals of a prosthodontist are centered around functionality, aesthetics, oral health and comfort. Prosthodontists also focus on beauty and harmony in the work they do. Dr. Chang uses a scientific knowledge of facial anatomy along with an understanding of dental materials to adjust the appearance of teeth, whilst retaining and improving oral functionality and health.
After your initial evaluation, Dr. Chang will discuss realistic expectations and outcomes with you. He will take his time to thoroughly explain treatment plans and alternatives to you. After your treatment has been completed, Dr. Chang will also educate you on maintenance requirements to promote the longevity of your dental work.