Periodontics Overview – Dr. Colin Richman

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Periodontics Overview

Periodontics is the dental specialty that focuses on preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions of the gum tissue. After graduating from dental school, a periodontist spends several years in a residency program, studying the mechanisms of periodontal (gum) inflammation and effective treatments for the condition.

Approximately 20% of periodontists pursue board certification through the American Academy of Periodontics. This requires substantial additional training and many hours of study. Board-certified periodontists must demonstrate clinical and technical proficiency before attaining this status. Dr. Richman attained board certification many years ago.

Bacteria commonly found in the mouth can cause disease and inflammation in the gums. Those diseased gums can then trigger serious problems throughout the rest of the mouth. When left untreated, inflammation that affects the periodontal (gum) tissue can attack other structures in the mouth, such as the teeth and the jawbone.

A general dentist may be able to treat gingivitis, the mildest version of gum disease, but more advanced forms of the disease call for a visit with a periodontist or preferably a board-certified periodontist.

With their extensive training and experience, periodontists can step in to perform surgical and non-surgical procedures to address periodontal (gum) disease. Seeking treatment in a timely fashion may prevent major oral health problems from developing later as a result of your periodontal (gum) disease. This includes the new, innovative approach to the treatment of periodontal (gum) disease through the use of a dental laser.

Periodontists also perform other procedures, including: surgical placement of dental implants; periodontally accelerated orthodontics; diagnosis and treatment of various oral conditions, known as oral medicine; and periodontal (gum) plastic surgery, which is the recontouring and rebuilding of gum tissue to enhance an esthetic smile.

Beyond the benefits to your oral health, periodontal (gum) care can also help improve your systemic well-being. Researchers have identified links between gum disease and numerous other conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Gum disease may also contribute to complications in pregnant women.

Above all, adequate periodontal (gum) care can ensure that your mouth stays healthy and able to perform its essential function of chewing. A periodontist can also help to improve your smile’s appearance.

Links to Related Info


Keeping your teeth, in good health for a lifetime

  • Periodontists are devoted to keeping teeth, or tooth replacements with dental implant for a patient’s lifetime in health, function and acceptable esthetics.
  • Following four years of college we attend dental school for another four years, and then move to graduate school and residency training for yet an additional 3 years.
  • Board certification is the ultimate test of skill and knowledge. This is awarded following grueling testing by an independent board of our periodontal peers.

The periodontist is involved in all phases of lifetime dental health including,

  • Periodontium, or the foundation
  • Long term health and strength of teeth themselves
  • Functionality (muscles, teeth, joints all working in harmony)
  • Esthetics

Signs and symptoms of early to advanced periodontitis

Chronic disease anywhere in the body is insidious, thus advanced symptoms may only appear late after significant damage has occurred.

Warning signs of advanced dental disease include:

  • Redness, tenderness, pain, swollen gums
  • Bleeding while brushing, flossing or biting into an apple
  • Insufficient long term flossing over a lifetime
  • Receding gums, frequently described ‘getting long in the tooth’
  • Teeth moving or shifting
  • Loose teeth
  • Appliances no longer fit comfortably
  • Previous history of tooth loss including parents
  • History of smoking, diabetes or other metabolic diseases

Periodontitis is chronic and insidious, therefore the earlier comprehensive treatment is initiated usually by a board certified periodontist, the greater the predictability of long-term success. Unless a tooth is very loose, there is a strong possibility that it can be saved with appropriate treatment. Long-term studies on tooth retention validate these concepts.

Did you know that most people over the age of 40 have or have had gum disease, which is a silent tooth killer and doesn’t usually hurt until it’s too late?  After the age of 20, your dentist must probe your gums for pockets every year.  Be proactive about your gum health and ask your dentist if you have pockets.  If you do, you probably have gum disease that has not been controlled.  Ask your dentist to refer you to a board certified periodontist who is skilled in treating patients with advanced dental disease, including periodontal disease.

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Contact Dr. Richman at 404/784-7272 or for more information on his various courses or to register for a course.