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Periodontist vs Dentist: What’s the Difference?

Dentists and periodontists are both experts in dental treatments that have completed at least four years of dental school. However, one is for general preventive and restorative care while the other is a specialist in treating gum disease and placing dental implants. 

There may be some overlap in the treatments that dentists and periodontists provide, but periodontists are experts in their field because they specifically focus on periodontal care. They also have more education, training, and experience in this specialization than dentists do.

Treatment Differences

We’re all familiar with general dentists. They’re the ones we go to for preventive and restorative treatments such as dental cleanings, checkups, fillings, and crowns. Have you ever heard of a periodontist? A periodontist is a specialist in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, of periodontal disease, and they are also trained in the placement of dental implants.

A general dentist is usually the first place you should go when you’re experiencing oral health issues. Their job is to maintain your overall oral health by preventing tooth decay and gum disease, repairing damaged teeth, and replacing missing ones. 

A periodontist is specially trained in gum disease and dental implants. They can treat minor to severe cases of gum disease with surgical or non-surgical procedures. They are also experts in dental implant placement and wisdom tooth extractions.

Education & Specialization

The main difference between a general dentist and a periodontist is their level of education and their area of focus. A traditional dentist must complete four years of dental school. A periodontist must complete four years of dental school and then an additional 2-3 years of university-based training in periodontics. 

Essentially, a dentist is a generalist that diagnoses and treats a range of minor oral health problems while a periodontist is a specialist with expertise in treating the gums and surrounding supporting structures. 

While a dentist can also treat gum disease and place dental implants, they do not have the same level of educational training and experience that a periodontist has. Periodontists also treat diseases of the gums and administer dental implants exclusively, while dentists perform a wide variety of treatments.

Reasons for Referral

There are many instances in which a dentist may refer you to see a periodontist when they feel that you need treatment outside of their expertise. While a dentist is likely to be able to treat minor cases of gum disease, such as gingivitis, advanced-stage gum disease may be too far out of their comfort or experience level. 

Not all dentists are trained in the placement of dental implants. In cases of dental trauma or disease, treatment may start with a general dentist and need to be completed at a periodontist, such as in the case of tooth restoration with dental implants.

Periodontal Care at Eastside Family Dentistry

Depending on the stage of gum disease, treatment can require general cleaning, scaling and root planing, antibiotics, or gum flap surgery. At Eastside Family Dentistry, we can diagnose and treat gum disease before it becomes severe. 

It’s important to catch gum disease early when the infection is still reversible and before it leads to the destruction of bone. To schedule a periodontal checkup with Dr. Alexandra Cristescu, contact us online or give us a call at (425) 391-9200.

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