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Dr. Neal Raval wearing light blue shirt with blue jacket and text "Periodontist vs. dentist - what's the difference?"

A periodontist is a dentist. But a dentist is not a periodontist.

Get it?

Don’t worry! We will break down the difference between a periodontist vs. a dentist, and explain why you need to see a periodontist in certain dental situations.

Periodontist vs. dentist

It’s safe to assume we all know what a dentist is, right?

So, let’s focus on what makes a periodontist different than a general dentist:

A specialized area of dentistry

As the Opens new tab to American Dental Association website American Dental Association states, a periodontist is an expert in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal, or disease, and in the placement of dental implants.

Even though some dentists offer gum-related services, they cannot simply call themselves a periodontist. Why?

Periodontics is formally recognized as one of 10 specialized Opens new tab to ADA website areas of dentistry. To become a periodontist or any other dental specialist, a dentist must obtain additional training and education beyond dental school.

Here’s how a dentist becomes a periodontist:

Additional education and training

To become a dentist, you must earn an undergraduate and dental degree.

To become a periodontist, you must receive an additional 2-3 years of training in periodontics (after completing dental school).

During this time, periodontists gain experience and knowledge in:

  • Non-surgical procedures
  • Surgical procedures
  • Dental implant placement
  • Periodontal treatment

And plenty more!

Now, let’s dive into why you might need to see a periodontist vs. a dentist.

Why you need to see a periodontist

The primary reason why dentists refer patients to a periodontist is for their expertise.

Periodontists are the most qualified dentists to treat gum disease and provide services relating to the soft tissue and bone supporting your teeth and jaw, such as dental implants.

And since they primarily focus their practices on this specialized care, they have significantly more experience in these treatments, which can make your experience more comfortable.

Even dentists who provide some periodontal care, still refer patients to periodontists when:

  • They do not offer the treatment(s) you need
  • Your case is too severe for their level of experience
  • They are unable to keep your gum disease under control
  • They seek a trusted second opinion

Visiting a new dentist may seem daunting, but rest assured, it’s for your best interest. And with the use of advanced technology in periodontics, you may be surprised to find how easy, fast, and pain-free periodontal therapy is.

What procedures does a periodontist perform?

Periodontists are most known for treating gum disease. This infection may seem as minor as bleeding gums when you brush or floss, but it’s a serious disease that can lead to oral and overall health issues, like strokes and heart disease.

Gum disease treatments include:

  • Non-surgical treatment
  • Periodontal surgery
  • Periodontal therapy
  • Scaling and root planing
  • Prescription products

Periodontists are also experts in:

How do you know when to see a periodontist?

If you show signs of periodontal disease, don’t wait! With more research showing links between gum disease and overall health issues, it’s more important than ever to get it treated right away.

Here are Opens new tab to American Academy of Periodontology website common signs you may need to see a periodontist:

  • Red, inflamed, or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Gums that pull away from the teeth
  • Teeth that look longer than before
  • Persistent bad breath

The difference between a periodontist and dentist

A periodontist is a dentist with specialized training and education in periodontics. They are experts in the bone and tissue that surround your teeth and offer the highest level of services for treating diseases, like gum disease.

If you’re looking for a periodontist in the Greater Seattle Area, visit Implant & Periodontic Specialists! We offer all the implant and periodontal services mentioned above and more!

Our periodontist, Dr. Neal Raval, has two convenient locations in Bellevue and Issaquah, WA. Contact us today: