FAQ / Glossary

FAQ   |   Glossary


What is a periodontist?  Do I need to see one?

A periodontist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, as well as dental implant placement. All periodontists are general dentists, but they receive additional training of up to three years after dental school to obtain the necessary education to perform procedures in periodontics. Your general dentist may refer you to a periodontist if you exhibit the symptoms of gum disease; however, you may schedule an appointment on your own if you have concerns about your oral health.

What is periodontal disease, and am I at risk of developing it?

The term “periodontal” simply means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth. Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is mainly attributed to the bacteria in dental plaque, which causes the gums to become inflamed and infected. Other factors, such as smoking or tobacco use, poor nutrition, stress or pregnancy, may put you at risk of developing gum disease.

Is periodontal disease contagious?

Although it is not an airborne disease, research has indicated that the bacteria that cause gum disease can be passed through saliva. Therefore, families and couples who may be in close contact with a person with gum disease are also at risk. We recommend being screened for periodontal disease regularly if you are potentially at risk.

My gums bleed when I brush my teeth.  Is this normal?

Healthy gums should not bleed when you brush your teeth. This is one of the early signs of gum disease. You should schedule an appointment with your periodontist for a complete periodontal screening.

Are there any ways to prevent periodontal disease?

A good oral hygiene regimen is imperative in preventing periodontal disease. Proper brushing and flossing, in conjunction with regular dental visits for professional cleanings twice a year, will help keep your smile healthy for life.

Are dental implants the best restoration option?

Your periodontist can determine if dental implants are your best restoration option for your individual case. Dental implants have a natural look and feel and can help prevent shifting of surrounding teeth. Implants are often preferred to bridges and dentures because they are more secure and can help prevent bone loss. Also, adjacent teeth are not affected by the placement of implants.

If I have periodontal disease, do I need surgery?  What are my options?

Whether you need surgery or not will depend on how advanced your periodontal disease is. There are non-surgical treatments, such as root scaling and planing available, for those with mild gum disease. If you are in the advanced stages of gum disease, you may benefit from having surgery. With the latest technology and advanced techniques available today, many surgical procedures including laser therapy can be performed in an office setting with little discomfort.

What is maintenance therapy?

Maintenance therapy is used to help prevent further infection from occurring in patients who have already received periodontal treatment. Your periodontist will tailor a program to fit your needs, which will include periodontal checkups, plaque and tartar removal and sometimes polishing your teeth or checking your bite. The frequency of visits varies from case to case, from every few weeks to four times per year.

I have a “gummy” smile. What can be done to correct this?

A procedure called esthetic crown lengthening can correct “gummy” smiles. “Gummy” smiles make teeth appear too short. With crown lengthening, the gums and supporting tissues are reshaped to expose more of the tooth.

My gums are receding and my teeth appear “long.”  Can this be fixed?

If left untreated, gum recession can lead to tooth loss. Soft tissue grafts can fix this condition and also prevent further recession or bone loss. In the procedure, gum tissue is taken from your palate or another donor source. This tissue is then placed over the exposed roots, which helps to even out the gum line and reduce sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.

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abscess - infection caused by severe tooth decay, trauma or gum disease.

aggressive periodontitis – advanced form of periodontitis where bone is destroyed and rapid attachment loss is evident; occurring in normally healthy patients.


bone graft – bone that is from a cadaver source or removed from part of a patient’s body and transferred to another area; also can include bone marrow.


calculus - the hardened plaque that can form on neglected or prone teeth, commonly known as tartar.

chronic periodontitis – most common form of periodontitis; form of periodontitis where supporting tissues are inflamed, gums recede, periodontal pockets form and bone and attachment loss are progressive.

crown lengthening – procedure used to correct teeth that appear too short (gummy smiles) or are decayed and broken down by reshaping the gum and supporting tissues to expose more of the tooth.


dental plaque - a sticky buildup of acids and bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease.

denture - a removable set of artificial teeth.


flap surgery – a procedure where the infection is cleaned out of a periodontal pocket through an incision in the gum. The gum flap is then repositioned to help reduce the pocket and encourage healing.


gingiva – the tissues surrounding the teeth; also known as the gum.

gingivectomy – the removal of gum tissue to eradicate a periodontal pocket or reduce excess gum.

gingivitis - inflammation of gums around the roots of the teeth.


halitosis – commonly known as bad breath.


implants - a titanium screw attached to the jawbone that replaces the missing root of teeth and which a crown or bridge can be attached.


maintenance therapy – a continuing program of dental cleanings on regular intervals used to help prevent further infection from occurring in patients who have already received periodontal treatment.


osseointegration – the three to six-month process where the bone attaches to a dental implant.

osseous surgery – any surgery pertaining to the bone supporting the teeth.


periodontal ligament – tissue that affixes the tooth to the bone.

periodontal pocket – a space formed when the gums pull away from the teeth; this occurs when plaque breaks down the gum and supporting tissues below the gumline.

periodontics – an area of dentistry that specializes in the treatment of the teeth’s supporting tissues and placement and preservation of dental implants.

periodontist – a general dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, as well as dental implant placement; additional training of three years after dental school is required for this specialization.


regeneration – procedure used to regenerate lost periodontal structures, such as bone, ligaments and connective tissue attachments, that support the teeth.

ridge augmentation – procedure used to repair a defect in the bony ridge.

root planing – the process of smoothing the root of the tooth so any remaining tartar is removed and clearing away any rough areas that bacteria below the gumline thrive in.

root scaling – process involving the scraping and removal of plaque and tartar from the tooth either above or below the gumline.


sedation dentistry – refers to the use of sedation during dental treatment; endorsed by the American Dental Association as an effective way to make many patients comfortable during their dental visit.

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