The field of dentistry has several types of dental specialties including endodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, pediatric dentistry, and more. Dental specialists are oral health care providers who receive specialized training after dental school, just like a neurologist or cardiologist. Pediatric dentistry, analogous to pediatrics in medicine, deals with the dental care of children and adolescents. Periodontics deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of periodontal tissues, the tissues that surround and support teeth.
These tissues consist mainly of the gums and jaws and their related contiguous structures. Advances in periodontics have focused mainly on treatment techniques. Bacterial plaque, a soft layer of bacteria-rich substances that adheres to teeth, is thought to be the factor responsible for most of the destruction of the gums and tissues surrounding teeth. Periodontists advocate the removal of such plaque through a specific regimen of controlled hygiene.
Prosthodontics is concerned with the restoration and maintenance of oral function, comfort, appearance, and health by replacing missing teeth and adjoining tissues with artificial substitutes or prosthetics. Prosthodontists have special training in the construction and placement of fixed (stationary) and removable appliances to replace missing teeth. They also build obturators, prosthetic devices designed to close defects in the palate in cases of cleft palate. A subspecialty of prosthodontics is maxillofacial prosthetics, which involves the creation of appliances, compounds of latex, silicone, or other modern materials, designed to replace parts of the face and jaws that have been lost due to surgery, illness, congenital disorders, or accident.
While a general dentist treats most oral health problems, a specialist focuses on one area and is considered an expert. Periodontists are dentists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease. They have received extensive training with an additional two years of study after dental school. As specialists, they dedicate their time, energy and skill to helping patients care for their gums.
A periodontist is one of eight dental specialists recognized by the American Dental Association.