Who is a periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal diseases (Gum and bone disease of the teeth). A periodontist also plans, places and maintains dental implants. In order to fully understand who a periodontist is, it’s important to understand the diseases your periodontist treats.

Approximately 95 percent of all Kenyans have some form of periodontal disease, known by many as gum diseases. These usually painless diseases often can go undetected until it’s too late. If left untreated, gum disease can destroy the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth, causing them to become loose and in some cases, painful. In addition, gum disease can cause bad breath and change the appearance of your smile. If the condition progresses far enough, you can lose your teeth.

How did I get a periodontal disease?

As you can probably tell from the figure mentioned above, many people ask this same question. Periodontal diseases can be accelerated by a number of different factors; however, it’s mainly caused by the bacteria found in the dental plaque, a sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not carefully removed by daily brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar).

Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins or poisons that irritate the gums, which may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. As periodontal disease progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that hold teeth in place deteriorate. Left untreated, this leads to tooth loss.




The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleaning. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can form some form of periodontal diseases. Once this disease gets started, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.

Those are the basic facts about periodontal diseases. This might leave you wondering…

Who is a periodontist? 

A periodontist is a dentist who is an expert in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the gum and bone that support the teeth and in the planning, placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontology is an entire branch of dentistry dedicated to studying the tissues surrounding the teeth, researching new techniques for treating periodontal diseases and replacing teeth lost to periodontal diseases with dental implants.

After periodontists complete dental school, they continue their education for two to three years to obtain a postdoctoral certificate in periodontics. During this special training, a periodontist learns the very latest techniques for diagnosis and treating of periodontal diseases and gains a detailed scientific background on all aspects of the diseases.

Like other dental professionals, periodontists continue to take educational courses throughout their career to stay abreast of the newest techniques in dentistry, dental implants and periodontal treatment.

Why should I see a Periodontist?

Dentistry can be compared to medicine and its specialties. Your family dentist is likely to be your personal physician. He or she can treat a wide range of needs and help you in good health. Like your family physician, your general dentist will advise you to see specialties when it’s necessary.

Your periodontal disease has progressed to the point where a specialist, your periodontist, has been recommended. Because of the in-depth training mentioned above, your periodontist has treatment and diagnostic skills to treat your disease in co-operation with your general dentist. Aside from treating periodontal disease, there are other reasons to visit your periodontist.

Aside from treating periodontal disease there are other reasons to visit your periodontist. If you are missing one or more teeth and are considering dental implants, your periodontist can help you decide if they are appropriate for you. He or she is trained to work with you and your general dentist or prosthodontist when missing teeth are being replaced with dental implants. In addition, your periodontist also can help create proper gum appearance to improve your smile. 

What can I expect the first time I visit my periodontist?

It will remind you a lot of going to your family dentist. Remember periodontists are dentists too. Your periodontist will review your complete medical and dental history with you. It’s extremely important for your periodontist to know if you are taking any medication both (prescription and over- the counter) or if you are being treated for any condition that can affect your periodontal care.

You then will be given a complete oral and periodontal examination. Your periodontist will examine your gums, check to see whether there is any gum line recession, asses how your teeth fit together when you bite and check to see if any are loose.

After that, your periodontist will take a small measuring instrument and insert it between your teeth and gums to determine the depth of those spaces, known as periodontal pockets. This helps your periodontist asses the health of your gums. This examination is so simple, you may barely feel it. Next radiographs (X-rays) will be used to show the bone levels between your teeth to check for possible bone loss.



Following your examination, your periodontist will review all of the findings with you, discuss your condition and suggest the various treatment options available to you along with the benefits and possible risks of each. You then will be able to make an informed decision regarding the type of treatment that will best suit your needs.

What types of treatment are available?

That depends on your individual condition. If your periodontal disease is in its early stages, preventive oral hygiene instruction along with scaling and root planning may be all that is necessary.

Scaling and root planning is a non-surgical technique that removes plaque and tartar from below the gum line. Tooth root surfaces are cleaned and smoothed with specially-designed instruments.





It’s important to remove the plaque and tartar from the pockets because, aside from the bacterial toxins that irritate the gums, plaque and the rough surfaces of tartar make it easier for bacteria to get a foothold.

For many patients with mild to moderate periodontal diseases, scaling and root planning, along with good oral hygiene and routine periodontal examinations, is all that’s needed. Mildly to moderate to more advanced periodontal disease may require surgery.

Other techniques may be used to treat your disease. For example, if gum recession has occurred, exposing the tooth root, gum grafts can be used to prevent further recession and sometimes even re-cover the tooth root. Or, if you have substantial bone loss around some of your teeth, your periodontist may use special techniques in an attempt to replace bone lost to the disease- (bone grafting).





What do I need to do after my treatment?

Once your treatment is complete, you’ll still need to work to maintain your oral health. You’ll need to brush and floss on a daily basis and continue with your maintenance visits to your periodontist and general dentist.

Because periodontal disease can recur even after active treatment, it’s important to professionally monitor your oral health to fend off any signs of disease. Your periodontist and general dentist will work together to coordinate your maintenance plan following your periodontal treatment.

What are the benefits of seeing a periodontist?

Besides fresh breath, a renewed confidence in your smile, restored oral health and new sense of health and vitality, you’ll be able to chew your food more easily and enjoy food you avoided because they were too difficult to eat. Years ago, people accepted tooth loss as part of getting older. You don’t have to. With help from your general dentist and periodontist, plus your own dedication to good oral hygiene you should keep your teeth for a little lifetime.


NB: For clinical photographs of before and after gum diseases treatment, see our website.



            DR. FUWAD ABDALLAH

B.D.S (N.B.I) C.AG.S. M.S.D, F.A.A.P. (U.S.A)

Member of American Academy of Periodontology (AAP)

Member of international Congress of oral Implantologist (ICOI)


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