NORTHEAST TEXAS PERIODONTAL SPECIALISTS
Nathan E. Hodges, DDS, MS

The First Visit To A Periodontist

What Happens at Your First Visit?

During your first visit to a periodontist it is standard procedure to establish both your complete medical health history, as well as your current dental health and history and profile. You can also expect to have a very thorough periodontal examination during an initial visit. It is important for the periodontist to check for various things such as TMJ, bone loss, bite, signs of periodontal disease, and loose teeth, as well as any bleeding of the gums. Often there will be a standard screening for oral cancer included, as well.

Generally, an initial periodontal exam is considered to be gentle, and you can expect there to be very little - if any - discomfort. So, it is not an exam that should cause a lot of concern about pain or discomfort.

For your first visit to a periodontist you should make sure to bring a list of any questions you might have for the periodontist. It can be helpful to write your questions down on paper or in the notes on your phone before the visit since first visits to any health care professional can make people feel nervous. Often people forget to ask important questions at first appointments, so writing questions down can really be helpful. It’s also important to bring the following:

  • Referral forms from your dentist and any X-rays from the dentist who referred you
  • List of medications that you currently take. It can be a good idea to download a registration form and a medical history form from the periodontist before your visit and take time to fill it out to the best of your ability.
  • Dental insurance information or insurance card if applicable
  • Anyone under 18 will of course need to have a parent or guardian along for the exam

The periodontist will definitely need any current or recent dental X-rays. Often times if a dentist has referred you to a periodontist, they will happily forward any X-rays that may have already been taken to the periodontist.

What Does Periodontal Treatment Cost?

Since each patient has a different situation and history, the periodontist will complete a full exam before being able to establish a specific treatment plan with relevant estimated fees for care. There can be a big variance in cost for periodontal treatments. The cost will depend on the complexity of your dental/periodontal issues, the type of problems you may have, and how long the periodontist expects the treatment to take. Your location can also be a factor in costs associate with periodontal treatment. An estimate of expected fees can often be determined at your first visit, but sometimes more testing or initial treatments can be required before a full plan for treatment is clearly established.

A lot of patients have natural concerns about what dental insurance may or may not cover. The good news is that many dental insurance policies often do cover at least some of the cost of periodontal treatments. It is important to bring all health and dental health information and any insurance cards to your first appointment.

Is Surgery a Typical Part of Periodontal Treatment?

When treated early enough, gum disease can be treated without any surgery. So, not everyone who has periodontal issues needs surgery. Often periodontists try to treat issues as conservatively as they can to realize ideal treatment. But each individual case is different, and typically you will be able to get a good sense of ideal treatment for your specific periodontal issues at your first appointment.

Other positive consideration is that there have been many advancements in periodontal treatment in recent years, and so most teeth can be treated successfully, and therefor preserved. It really depends on your specific periodontal issues and conditions.

How Involved Is Your Regular Dentist Likely To Be?

It is common for a patient’s dentist and periodontist to work together closely. For example, if a you need crowns and/or fillings you can expect your dentist to provide the appropriate treatment for those issues. The dentist and periodontist typically share and exchange treatment information to allow for the best treatment possible.

What Happens When Someone Chooses Not To Have Periodontal Treatment?

Because periodontal disease is a painless, yet progressive infection it is VERY important not to delay periodontal treatment. Waiting or opting out of treatment can lead to more bone loss, and eventually can lead to much more expense. More complicated treatments are often costly and stressful. And, if periodontal disease results in loss of teeth, not only can getting the right dentures be its own complex treatment procedure, dentures will simply never be as effective or comfortable as a person’s own natural teeth. Periodontal treatment is not a treatment that dental health care professionals recommend postponing. If payment or cost is a real concern make sure to explore all your treatment and payment options so that you don’t feel you have to delay recommended periodontal treatment.

More About Your First Consultation Appointment

At an initial periodontal consultation appointment you will be checked for gum or periodontal disease. In this full examination the periodontist or technician will use various instruments and X-rays for measurements and imaging to help identify any periodontal issues you may have. One typical periodontal instrument used for exams is known as a periodontal probe and is used for gently measuring the depth of what is called the sulcus. The sulcus is actually a shallow crevice which is v-shaped and is situated between the gums and teeth. When the sulcus is healthy its depth is typically three millimeters or less. If it is unhealthy the depth can be greater than three millimeters. So this measurement is actually quite important.

If a person has healthy gum tissue then these gum tissues will not bleed during an exam. So, if your gums are healthy there should be no bleeding during an examination. If there is any unhealthy gum tissue, then bleeding of the gums can be a sign, and therefore can happen during an exam. In addition, periodontal or gum disease can cause the sulcus to actually deepen into pocket like space. So this is something that is examined closely. The periodontal probe is often used for this purpose and can be helpful in determining if any pockets have developed, as well as the actual depth of any existing pockets. As a general rule, the deeper the pocket, the more serious the disease. Periodontists will also often use dental X-rays and/or radiographs to help in evaluating how much natural bone support there is for your teeth. These X-rays and radiographs can also be helpful in detecting other issues that periodontists are not able to see just from looking with their eyes.

During your initial exam, a periodontist will do very careful and thorough examinations, and will also listen to any concerns or complaints you may have. A patient’s perception and experience is an important aspect of accurate diagnosis. Using a combination of medical history, oral examination, and evaluations with appropriate tools/devices a proper diagnosis can be reached. Once the full diagnosis is reached then a full treatment plan, with estimated costs can be offered and discussed. If you have questions or concerns it can be helpful to consult with your normal dentist, too. And, during an initial exam it is so important to remember to ask any and all questions.

Read : Choosing the Right Periodontist For You