Patient Frequently Asked Questions

What is a periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are also experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school.

Why would my dentist refer me to a periodontist?

Dentists and Periodontists work together closely to manage the care of a patient’s oral health. Periodontists receive specialized training outside of dental school that allows them to be experts in all things relating to the gums and teeth, which likely lies outside of the skill set of the referring dentist.

Dentists refer to Periodontists for:

  • Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease
  • Placement of dental implants
  • Tooth extractions, and preparation of for tooth replacements
  • Bone grafting, sinus lifts
  • Treatment of oral inflammation
  • Gingival (gum) grafting, to help save existing teeth
  • Cosmetic gum contouring

How frequently should I schedule a periodontal examination?

It is considered best practice to schedule a regular periodontal or dental examination every six months. Doing so allows your periodontist to consistently monitor your overall oral health, provide a deep cleaning, and/or identify and address issues before they develop into something worse.

Patients who have already been diagnosed with periodontal disease, or who are at an increased risk of developing periodontal disease may benefit from scheduling periodontal examinations with more frequency (every three or four months). Factors that may increase the need for greater frequency of periodontal visits include whether or not you are a tobacco user, the state of your general health, the severity of your periodontal disease, and whether or not you are genetically predisposed to periodontal disease.

What insurance providers do you work with at North Alabama Periodontics?

In service to our patients, we accept all dental insurance programs, including plans that are “out-of-network”. However, we do not participate with any dental insurance company, and therefore, payment is expected at time of service. As a courtesy to our patients, our front desk staff will process and submit the claim forms and all pertinent documentation for you so that you can be directly reimbursed by your insurance company. For additional details, please refer to our insurance information section of this website.

What should I expect on my first visit?

During your initial visit, Dr. Summerford will conduct a thorough examination to evaluate your current conditions. This includes:

  • Talking to you about any pre-existing health concerns
  • Reviewing your medical records
  • Obtaining necessary x-rays
  • Learning about your daily lifestyle and dental concerns
  • Performing a clinical examination

Once the exam is complete, Dr. Summerford will discuss all of your concerns and various treatment options. He takes the time to answer any questions you may have. He will then use that information to create a customized, detailed treatment plan for you.

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. While certain diseases, medications and poorly fitting oral appliances can cause bleeding to occur, it’s more likely that your gums are being irritated by dental plaque that has not been effectively cleaned from your teeth near the gum line. You should schedule an appointment with your periodontist for a complete periodontal screening.

Can anything be done for my receding gums?

Left untreated, receding gums can lead to tooth loss. We can correct this condition with soft tissue grafts that also prevent the further recession or bone loss. We can even out the gumline and reduce sensitivity to heat and cold. Call our office at (256) 883-4032 or request an appointment to schedule an exam with Dr. Summerford of North Alabama Periodontics in Huntsville, Alabama.

Can anything be done to correct my “gummy” smile?

A gummy smile can be corrected in a number of ways depending upon the cause. The most common treatment is to reshape the gum line to allow just the right amount of tooth to be exposed. In effect, we redraw your smile so that it shows more tooth and less gum. The procedure is quick, and you’ll experience minimal recovery time. Best of all, the results are dramatic and immediate. For more information, please see our crown lengthening procedure.

What are the advantages of dental implants?

When a single permanent tooth or multiple teeth are lost due to dental decay or gum disease, dental implants can give your your functionality and appearance. Dental implants can last a lifetime and can improve your appearance, your confidence, and your ability to eat the foods you like, and participate in an active lifestyle, without worrying about your teeth. Dental implants are made of titanium and can never get dental decay.

Learn more about dental implants

Am I a candidate for dental implants?

Generally speaking, if you have lost teeth you are a candidate for dental implants. It is important that you are in good health, however, as there are some conditions and diseases that can affect whether dental implants are right for you. For example, uncontrolled diabetes, cancer, radiation to the jaws, smoking, alcoholism, or uncontrolled periodontal (gum) disease may affect whether dental implants will fuse to your bone. It is important to let your dental surgeon know all about your medical status (past and present) together with all medications you are taking, whether prescribed, alternative (herbal) or over-the-counter.

Learn more about dental implants

Are dental implants my best option for replacing missing teeth?

A periodontist can determine if a dental implant is your best option. Dental implants have a natural look and feel and can help prevent shifting of the surrounding teeth. Many people prefer implants to bridges or dentures because they are more secure, they help prevent bone loss and they do not affect adjacent teeth.

What is periodontal disease?

The word periodontal means “around the tooth.” Gums are like a protective layer over the fibers and bone that hold your teeth in your mouth. Periodontal diseases are bacterial infections that destroy those fibers and bone. If you don’t treat these diseases, you could lose your teeth. Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed, forming “pockets” around the teeth where the gum has separated from the tooth. Over time, these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space in which bacteria can live. As bacteria develop around the teeth, they can accumulate and advance under the gum tissue. These deep pockets collect even more bacteria, resulting in further bone and tissue loss. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the teeth will need to be extracted.

How is periodontal disease treated?

Periodontal treatment will be determined by the nature and severity of your periodontal disease. To determine this, a thorough examination will be performed. To treat periodontal disease, it will first be necessary to remove bacteria that has formed beneath the gums, and then inhibit the ability for bacteria to collect and harden into tartar, which is done by a scaling and root planing procedure. Once the bacteria has been removed, additional procedures and steps can be taken to reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease and/or correct the impact periodontal disease has already had on your oral health.

How can I prevent periodontal disease?

The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to take good care of your teeth and gums at home. This includes brushing your teeth after every meal and before bedtime, flossing at least once each day, and seeing your dentist or periodontist for regular exams twice a year. Spending a few minutes a day on preventative measures may save you the time and money of treating periodontal disease.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease, if left untreated, can contribute to other health problems including heart disease and diabetes. If you're pregnant, having periodontal disease is also linked to premature birth or low birth weight. Your smile's health affects the overall health of your body. Symptoms include:

  • Red, swollen, sore gums
  • Gums that bleed when brushing and flossing
  • Teeth that appear longer or become loose
  • Large spaces that form between the teeth
  • Gums that begin to pull away from the teeth
  • Chronic bad breath

What are symptoms of a periodontal infection?

Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. As gum disease progresses, it can turn to periodontitis. Symptoms are more severe than those found with gingivitis. Pockets will get larger and you might notice pus seeping out between your gums and your teeth. Your teeth might get loose. You might get sores in your mouth or struggle with a foul taste or smell coming from your mouth.

At North Alabama Periodontics, we are committed to providing quality healthcare to patients of all ages. We provide individualized solutions for your unique dental health needs. Contact Us
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