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Periodontist vs Orthodontist: What is the Difference?

Dentistry is known for treating any issues related to your teeth and mouth. Yet, it has various specialized branches that address specific oral problems such as periodontics and orthodontics. Depending on the nature of your oral issues, you might need to see a periodontist or an orthodontist.

You can make the right call regarding potential treatment for any dental problems by learning what these two dental professionals do and speaking to your family dentist.

Differences Between Periodontics & Orthodontics

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What is a Periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who exclusively focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating inflammatory disease that destroys the gums and other supporting structures around the teeth, such as your bones. What a periodontist specializes in might sound like what any dentist is versed in knowing and practicing. However, a periodontist deals with more extreme cases of gum inflammation and bone disease.

For prevention, they're involved in conducting more thorough deep cleanings. Meanwhile, treatment can vary depending on the severity and complexity of gum inflammation. You might be given some form of medication or, in more intensive cases, require surgery performed by the periodontist like a gum graft.

What Can a Periodontist Do?

Periodontists do their best to help prevent gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. However, if you're seeing the periodontist, it's clear there are serious issues with your gums.They can help manage and treat pain and sensitivity from advanced gum problems like tooth decay and oral inflammation.

In these cases, a periodontist can provide the following dental care to address those complex gum issues:

  • Scaling & root planing (i.e. tartar that's deeply present underneath the gum line)
  • Prescribes tray delivery systems
  • Gum grafts
  • Laser treatments
  • Dental crown lengthening
  • Remove surplus gum tissue
  • Bone surgery
  • Ridge augmentation
  • Interpreting oral exams and X-rays
  • Administering anesthetics around affected areas
  • Pulling teeth if repair is not an option
Find the Right Dentist

What is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in correcting the position of teeth and jaws. Abnormal alignment of teeth and jaws is a common problem that orthodontists use their knowledge to rectify. These misalignments usually are a result of teeth growing improperly or crooked. Some orthodontists can address dentofacial orthopedics, which is altering the positions of some facial bones and the jaws while they are actively growing.

Unaddressed alignment issues can lead to a host of problems. For example, crooked teeth can cause excess wear and tear on the teeth, gums, and jaw muscles. In turn, it can lead to cracked teeth, cavities, jaw strain, temporomandibular joint disorder, and chronic headaches. And in some cases, it can cause speech difficulties. With an orthodontist, the most notable treatment they give in such cases is braces or clear aligners to help straighten teeth. In these ways, orthodontists help prevent certain oral issues and ensure a better smile.

What Can an Orthodontist Do?

As established, orthodontists strive to fix teeth and jaw misalignment. In which case, a visit to the orthodontist means these issues need to be addressed and treated. They do so by seeing the alignment's root cause before treating and regularly monitoring its progress.

An orthodontist can provide the following dental care to address those alignment issues:

  • Using testing & imaging to find dental-facial problems
  • Creates treatment plans for teeth straightening (i.e. metal braces, Invisalign, and retainers)
  • Educating on dental care & how to keep orthodontic appliances clean
  • Monitoring dental work & braces or Invisalign to make adjustments with time
  • Supervises facial growth – bite and jawline – in children
  • Diagnoses & treats malocclusion (i.e. misaligned teeth and jaws, such as overbite & underbite)

Who to Turn to for Dental Treatment?

Between a periodontist and orthodontist, they both specialize in different aspects of dentistry and your family dentist will be able to inform you of which specialist you would benefit from seeing. As specialists in their field, they are the best at what they do as they strive to promote the oral health of a person's teeth. The difference lies in their specialty and means of treatment.

People are generally more likely to see an orthodontist compared to a periodontist. The reason is that alignment issues occur in both children and adults. It's why you see some children with braces or Invisalign. However, an orthodontist can refer one of their patients to a periodontist if they notice significant gum problems that need addressing.

Unless you're facing serious issues regarding gum inflammation or the roots of teeth, you won't need to see a periodontist. If anything, you want to avoid having to see one! You can easily prevent this by keeping your oral health in check.

What a periodontist and orthodontist do are completely different. The two have similar knowledge of dentistry, but they address very specific oral issues.The one that's best for you is the dental professional that is the most versed in treating your unique dental problems.


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