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When it comes to our mouths, it's our teeth that get most of the attention. Maybe it's because teeth are so pearly white. It could be because we have so many of them. But the truth is, without the support of healthy gums, our teeth would fall out.

That's why the help of a periodontist is so critical.

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in treating diseases of the gum and bone tissue that support the teeth.

Periodontists train extensively in these areas for three years beyond dental school. In addition to treating periodontal diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis, a periodontist can also perform cosmetic procedures to enhance your smile.

Treatments From a Periodontist

Stained or chipped teeth are enough to make most of us run to the dentist for dental treatment. But if we have bleeding gums, receding gums or persistent bad breath, most of us would rather hide. Don't -- this is the best time to see a periodontist.

The fact is these are the most common symptoms of periodontal disease. And if you ignore the signs for too long without seeing a periodontist, you risk losing your teeth. Even worse, periodontal disease is also linked to heart disease and preterm births.

Even if you don't have symptoms, it's still a good idea to see a periodontist for a periodontal evaluation. Sometimes it's the only way to find out if you have periodontal disease. And the good news is you don't even have to see your regular dentist to get a referral -- you can go directly to a periodontist.

A periodontist uses several methods of gum disease treatment, depending on the severity:

Scaling and Root Planing (SRP) -- Careful cleaning of the root surfaces to remove dental plaque and dental tartar and to smooth the tooth root to remove bacterial toxins. 

Periodontal Surgery -- Your periodontist may recommend dental surgery if your gum tissue can't be restored by non-surgical treatment.

Types of gum surgery include:

- Pocket reduction procedures
- Regenerative procedures
- Crown lengthening
- Soft tissue grafts

Laser Gum Therapy -- Your periodontist may perform laser gum therapy in conjunction with scaling and root planing treatment. Using laser dentistry can minimize bleeding, swelling and discomfort for the patient during surgery.

If you've already lost one or more teeth to gum disease, your periodontist can give you dental implants -- an artificial tooth root that's surgically implanted to hold a replacement tooth or dental bridge. Some periodontists also perform cosmetic procedures such as ridge augmentation to restore the natural contour of your gums and jaw.

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