NORTHEAST TEXAS PERIODONTAL SPECIALISTS
Nathan E. Hodges, DDS, MS
Kimberly D. Sheppard, DDS, MS

139 Periodontist Frequently Asked Questions_ NEH (1)

139 Periodontist Frequently Asked Questions?

Can gum disease be specifically linked to cardiovascular disease?

According to some research, periodontal disease can lead to an increased likelihood that a person will develop cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease are both considered to be a chronic inflammatory disease, so it is likely that inflammation might be the link between the two. If left untreated periodontal disease will likely lead to increased inflammation in a person’s body. This increased inflammation can increase risks for other serious health issues, which does include cardiovascular disease, but to really decipher and understand the connection between the two there is a need for more research.

Will Medicare or Medicaid cover periodontal treatment?

It is important to check with your dentist to find out if you plan will cover the specific periodontal treatment that you will be receiving. At this time Medicare isn’t covering any dental work or treatments. Medicaid coverage varies state by state, so coverage can vary significantly depending on your location.

With scaling and root planing is the use of topical antibiotics necessary?

Depending on your specific treatment and condition, topical antibiotics maybe be advised by your dental professional. Topical antibiotics can be an effective as part of a scaling and root planing treatment, but each patient has different pre-existing conditions and needs.

How are calculus and plaque different?

Calculus, also known as tartar, is actually hardened plaque. Plaque is a colorless, but sticky film that is always forming on the teeth. Because acid secreting bacteria are living in plaque, plaque can cause gum tissue irritation as well as eventual tooth decay. This kind of irritation produces an inflammatory response in the body which can then lead to gingivitis and/or periodontal disease. When the plaque is not regularly removed (via flossing and brushing) it will harden and turn into calculus. Because calculus is hard a toothbrush won’t be able to remove it. A professional oral cleaning is needed to remove calculus. Brush and floss the teeth regularly, at least twice a day, and have regular dental cleanings to keep your mouth healthy.

Do children ever get periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is extremely uncommon in children. Occasionally it may be present in the adolescent stage. But, as a parent it is important to know periodontal disease warning signs. Red, bleeding, and/or swollen gums can be signs of periodontal disease, as well as bad breath that doesn’t seem to go away. It’s important, as well to make sure your children and your dentist are aware of any family history of periodontal disease. Brushing and flossing twice a day are such important habits to teach your kids. This can help protect the teeth and gums for a lifetime.

Besides diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, what else are periodontists trained to do?

In general a periodontist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. However, there are many other procedures that a periodontist may perform or be involved in, including placing dental implants, monitoring implants for continued functionality, addressing and correcting recession of the gums, and covering root surfaces that have been exposed. Periodontists are often an integral part of any dental cosmetic procedures, and in conjunction with dentists they can can be extremely helpful in making sure you have optimal oral health.

Does periodontal disease have a list of known signs and symptoms?

Because periodontal disease is not usually painful signs and symptoms can be hard to detect until the disease in a more advanced stage. So, it’s important to be aware of possible warning signs which can include:

* Tender, swollen, or red gums
* Bleeding of the gums during flossing or brushing – or even when eating some foods
* Receding gums
* Separating or loose teeth
* Pus between teeth and gums
* Mouth sores
* Bad breath that doesn’t seem to go away
* Subtle changes in the way it feels to bite
* Changes in the way partial dentures are fitting

Contact your dentist and/or periodontist as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms.

What are the financial assistance options for periodontal treatments, including implants?

Periodontists can actually be a great resource for learning more about available financial assistance. A lot of periodontists will help set up financing options, and/or payment plans. Sometimes periodontists will know of insurance companies or plans that can help with financial coverage of implant treatments. States also often have state dental societies and this can be another resource worth researching. They may be able to offer a list of individuals or organizations that can help subsidize any treatment costs. It can also be helpful to contact any local university or college. Many colleges have dental schools that can offer treatments at a significantly reduced cost.

What are the best at-home practices for periodontal disease prevention?

Taking great care of your gums and teeth at home is actually the best prevention for periodontal disease. Brush your teeth after each meal, and especially before bedtime. Floss twice a day and make sure to have regular dental exams and cleaning at least twice a year. A few minutes each day can significantly reduce your risk for developing periodontal disease.

I have family members that have periodontal disease. Should I be worried about getting it? Is it genetic?

Being proactive with your oral health is the best thing you can do. It’s a great step to be aware of this family history. There is some indication (through recent research results) that genetics can increase risk for perdiontal disease, but there are many other factors that are involved. The most important preventative measure to take is to take great care of your gums and teeth daily.

What is the link between diabetes and periodontal disease?

There is research to suggest that people with diabetes have an increased risk of having periodontal issues. People with diabetes are more likely to getting infections in general, and periodontal disease is considered to be a considerable complication of diabetes. The relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease does seem to go both ways, however. The upside of that is that in the same way that having diabetes can increase risk of periodontal disease, research also does suggest that proper periodontal hygiene may be able to positively affect a person’s blood sugar levels.

Is there a connection between heart disease and gum disease? Where can I get further information?

There has been a lot of recent discussion and information about the link between heart disease and periodontal disease. Some research has recently indicated that there may be a link between the two. Inflammation is the connection suspected by research scientists. If you have any risk for heart disease, it would be a good idea to discuss this with your periodontist, since there does seem to be a chance that periodontal disease may increase your risk. There is a lot of information in circulation on the internet as well, so it is important to gather information.

My dentist recently informed me that I have some signs of gum disease and that I should follow up with a periodontist for further evaluation. Do you have any recommendations for finding the best periodontist near me?

If you have been diagnosed with signs of symptoms of gum disease, consulting with a periodontist is a great idea. To find the right periodontist it’s a good idea to start by asking for a referral from your dentist. Likely, your dentist has a preferred periodontist that she or he works with (or has worked with in the past). There are websites that you can visit that are specifically designed to help you find a periodontist near you and/or find a periodontist specializing in the treatment you need. It can also be helpful to ask friends, families, or co-workers about periodontal experiences that have been positive.

I have recently lost a permanent tooth. Ideally I would like to get it replaced with an implant. How much do implants cost?

Costs of implants can really vary from location to location. Often the cost will be very different in a rural area than in an urban locale. The cost of implants is also of course affected by how many and what type of implants are needed. It is important to discuss any and all financial concerns you may have with your periodontists. It’s a good idea to discuss projected time commitments, as well. Call your periodontist office and speak with the staff, too, as the staff will have some good insight into general projected costs are per procedure at their specific office.

What does “board certified” mean in regards to being a periodontist? Is this important? After dental school a periodontist must also complete an extra 2-3 years of specialized education and training specific to periodontics. Board certification for periodontology is significant in that is shows that someone has gone well beyond the mandatory specialty requirements, and indicates a comprehensive understanding and mastery of all of the phases of periodontal disease and relevant treatments, as well as of dental implant treatment and placement. As with most board certifications, recertification is necessary every 6 years.

Can a general dentist treat periodontal disease? Or should I definitely go to a periodontist?

If you have periodontal disease it is actually recommended to have both your dentist and a periodontist involved in the proper diagnosis and optimal treatment. Having a team join collaborate on the best treatment for your specific case is the ideal situation. General dentists will be family with your overall dental history and any other general medical history, while the periodontist will have specialized expertise in treatments

How often should I go to the periodontist for an exam to address my recent diagnosis of gum disease?

Having regular periodontal exams is very important for keeping track of your periodontal disease and issues. Generally, a periodontist will advise a maintenance schedule depending on if your periodontal disease is serious or in advanced stages. There are many factors, such as overall health, other risk factors (i.e. family history and smoking), and state of current bone loss that will help your periodontist outline the ideal maintenance and exam schedule to help keep your periodontal disease from progressing. For mild cases exams every 6 months are typical. For more severe periodontal disease exams every 2-3 months can be necessary.

Can periodontal disease be contagious?

Technically, periodontal disease is not considered contagious because research shows that it is caused by bacteria under the gums that causes an inflammatory reaction. But these same bacteria that cause inflammatory reactions can be spread through any kind of shared saliva. So if any family member has periodontal disease, it’s important to avoid the sharing of any saliva. Don’t share eating utensils, or any utensils used for oral health. If you suspect your spouse or any other close family member has signs of periodontal issues you should encourage a periodontal exam for their benefit and yours.

I have short teeth and what seems like a lot of gums! When I smile I feel self conscious because it seems like all that is visible are my gums. Is there anything I can do to change the appearance of my gums?

There are definitely ways to enhance the appearance of your smile. It’s important to discuss any questions, ideas and issues with your periodontist. There are procedures such as crown lengthening that can enhance smiles by removing excess gum tissue. The gum line also gets reshaped in this procedure and this can help regain smile-ready confidence. Sometimes other treatments, such as veneers or crowns may be recommended. It’s important to consult with the periodontist and the dentist to get a sense of what will be the best treatment for your particular condition and issues.

If I lose any of my teeth what are the overall consequences in terms of my dental health and appearance?

Unfortunately there are various negative effects of missing one or many of your teeth. In general missing multiple teeth with affect the way your face appears. Your smile will change due to gaps caused by missing teeth. And, if you’re missing a lot of teeth your mouth won’t be able to support the skin around it properly, and your skin and face will begin to sag. This can make you look and feel older than you are. Missing teeth also make chewing significantly more challenging, and can affect the ways in which you speak and use your voice. Missing just one tooth can affect people’s self-confidence, which can be emotional. If you are missing any teeth implants must be considered. They feel and look like your natural teeth. You can browse perio.org for more about implants, and it’s a great idea to consult with your periodontist, too.