Your First Visit with a Periodontist: What It's All About

Periodontal disease affects thousands of Americans. What causes it?

  • Bacteria invades the gum tissue around the teeth, causing irritation below the gum line as plaque forms.
  • Some bacteria can even release toxins that attack the bone that helps hold teeth in place.
  • Gums can start to bleed when brushed, and teeth can become loose and/or fall out.
  • Periodontal treatment can get rid of bacteria and plaque, and can slowly restore your gums to health.

I'm Dr Scharf. You may have decided on your own that it is time to see a professional about your teeth, or perhaps your family dentist has recommended that you visit my office so that the extent of your "periodontitis" or gum disease may be evaluated. I am a specialist in this area of dentistry, and I am known as a periodontist. I work with patients who are concerned about gum disease as well as those who need dental implants or any other treatment related to the gums.

Commonly known as pyorrhea, periodontal disease is a progressive ailment, meaning it gets gradually worse over time. It is suffered, to some extent, by nearly 90 percent of adults over age 35 and is the primary reason for loss of teeth by people over 30.

Periodontal disease begins when bacteria invade the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. Once this bacterial invasion takes hold, the gums become puffy, bleed easily, and gradually lose their "grip" on the teeth they are supposed to protect. Pockets form around the teeth where the gum loses its grip, allowing even more bacteria to lodge under the gum line below the reach of a toothbrush. Some of the bacteria can produce toxins that attack the bone supporting the teeth. Without treatment, teeth become loose and may need to be removed.

Because this destruction usually occurs beneath the gum line, the gum tissue may appear normal. This explains why many people discover too late that they have the disease. Only a thorough periodontal examination can reveal whether hidden disease is present.

What Can Be Done?

Appropriate treatment along with follow-up care by you and your family dentist can help to prevent recurrence of the disease.

  • Treatment usually begins with a thorough cleaning of the tooth roots and any gum pockets. The plaque and calculus are removed and tooth roots smoothed to eliminate any crevices that can harbor plaque.
  • A daily home care program is then implemented, including careful brushing and flossing to remove plaque from under the gum margins. (Find flossing uncomfortable or even painful? Dr. Scharf has plenty of alternative ways to help reduce plaque that are easier and just as effective. Ask us how!)
  • Sometimes the biting surfaces of the teeth can be adjusted to evenly distribute chewing pressures throughout the mouth.
  • Patients who postpone periodontal care until the disease has progressed to an advanced state often require more intensive forms of treatment to help the gums reattach to the teeth. Dr. Scharf is an expert at both nonsurgical and surgical treatment of gum disease. He holds the honor of being the first periodontist on Long Island trained and certified in perioscopy as well as the first periodontist on Long Island trained and certified in laser periodontal therapy. (Dr. Scharf has become so well known for his expertise in using lasers to help patients treat gum disease without surgery that patients now flock to him from New Jersey to Montauk!)