Q&A with Our Periodontist in The Woodlands

Q&A with Our Periodontist in The Woodlands

Dr. Kip Saunders is one of The Woodlands most experienced dental experts. As a periodontal specialist, we work with adults throughout The Woodlands, Conroe, and greater North Houston areas. Here are some of the most common questions we hear, especially from individuals who are visiting a periodontist for the first time.

What is a Periodontist?
Periodontists are one of the types of dental specialists recognized by the ADA (along with experts like orthodontists, oral surgeons, etc.). Being a periodontist means completing an additional 2-3 years of formal education after four years of dental school. “Perio-” means “around” and “-dont” refers to teeth; periodontal care is essentially that related to managing the health of the gingival and bone tissues that surround the roots of teeth.

Dental Implants

Which Dentists Can Place Dental Implants?
Any dentist with the appropriate training, resources, and technology can place a dental implant. However, experts such as Dr. Saunders who specialize in dental implant therapy are able to perform the procedure on a more frequent basis and usually have access to expanded equipment to make the process easier and more predictable. Often, dentists in The Woodlands and Conroe refer their patients to Dr. Saunders to place their patients’ implants. Since our practice utilizes 3D imaging and other advanced technology, we’re able to complete a wide variety of dental implant therapies for simple and complex cases alike.

What is a “Gum Lift”?
Have you ever heard someone mention that they have a “gummy smile”? Or maybe you recently recovered from gum disease, but there are still deep periodontal pockets under your gums, attracting bacterial deposits? A “gum lift” is something that Dr. Saunders can do — for either cosmetic or health reasons — to reduce the height of gingival tissues and depth of pockets. As a result, the gingiva that frame your smile look healthier.

3D-Imaging-for-Dental-Care
How do Dentists Use 3D Imaging?

How do Dentists Use 3D Imaging?
In years past, dentists had to rely on two-dimensional X-rays to plan out three-dimensional treatments. At times, this could lead to treatments needing to be changed or adjusted in the middle of a procedure. Today, we’re able to use 3D conebeam imaging to create digital replicas of your entire oral anatomy. From the individual teeth to the location of your sinus linings or nerve tissues, everything is visible on the screen. With that information, it’s possible to digitally map out treatments like dental implants, virtually installing them before the physical treatment is even scheduled to begin. 3D imaging increases case success, shortens recovery time, and reduces the length of dental procedures.

Do Dental Implants Last Longer Than Other Treatments?
When you’re investing in your smile, you want your treatment to last as long as possible. Here’s great news: dental implants can last for the rest of your life. They surpass the normal “wear and tear” that you see with conventional tooth replacements such as bridges or dentures, making them the go-to solution for restoring your smile. It works because implants integrate with your bone and become a permanent part of your oral anatomy. As long as you’re cleaning them daily and maintaining the health of the tissues around them, you can expect implants to have about a 98% success rate (which is higher than other modern restorations.) Working with a periodontist like Dr. Kip Saunders in The Woodlands will ensure that you receive some of the best dental implant treatment possible.

Why Does My Gum Health Matter So Much?
Your periodontal (gum) health is closely linked to dozens of different health issues. Having infected gum tissues, specifically chronic periodontal disease, can statistically raise your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, infertility, preeclampsia, erectile dysfunction, pneumonia, and possibly even dementia. Not only that, but infected gum and bone tissue around your teeth can cause your teeth to become mobile and fall out. Since gum disease is best treated through prevention, early screening and intervention is ideal. But if you don’t catch it until much later, a periodontist like Dr. Saunders can help you get your oral health back on track. That way your overall wellness can benefit at the same time. Studies show that treating your periodontal disease can result in improved health (related to the above-mentioned underlying factors) within a few months of completing your gum treatment.

How Does Laser Dentistry Work?
Laser dentistry uses advanced light (and/or water) technology to pinpoint treatments into a precise beam. When we use that pinpoint beam to treat specific areas inside of your mouth, it results in better accuracy, faster recovery, and reduced “surgical” techniques. A dental laser can destroy infectious bacteria without damaging the healthy tissues around it. That’s why we prefer incorporating such technology for periodontal management. The minimally-invasive nature allows for practically little to no recovery time or discomfort in the treatment area. Dentists and dental specialists often rely on lasers for everything from sleep apnea treatments to drill free fillings. There are a variety of different types of lasers that are used, so it’s important to talk to your dentist or dental specialist about the procedure you have in mind.

Is Gum Disease/Periodontitis Genetic?
It depends on who you ask. You could say yes and no. Bottom line, oral bacteria and oral hygiene habits tend to be shared and passed down from parents to their children. So, if you weren’t a family that placed a lot of emphasis on dental hygiene or recurring checkups, there’s a good chance that dental problems may seem to “run in the family.” That being said, some people may have a genetic susceptibility to periodontal infections. But that doesn’t mean that gum disease can essentially take over their oral health. The truth is, if you’re caring for your teeth as best as possible, that preventative tactic will surpass any of the familial risk factors you’ve brought with you. Especially if your parents or grandparents didn’t have access to dental care and lost their teeth at a young age. However, you may find that the “battle” is one that’s ongoing. Partnering with a periodontist in The Woodlands like Dr. Saunders can give you a head start on preserving your smile for years to come. That way you can break the cycle!

Can I Treat Gum Disease at Home?
The earliest stage of gum disease is gingivitis. At this point of infection, it’s possible to treat the source at home through good oral hygiene habits. Thorough brushing and flossing will generally reverse gingivitis in about two weeks. But once the infection has started to invade the attached gingiva and bone around your tooth roots, professional treatment is necessary. At this point, there is likely a significant amount of calcified buildup (tartar) that’s harboring bacteria inside of your gum “pockets.” Tartar can only be cleaned out by a dentist or dental hygienist, so it’s crucial to schedule regular cleaning appointments. Heavy amounts of tartar can amplify the severity of your gum disease. When it does, professional dental care is the only option to get your oral health back under control. DIY rinses, probiotic tablets, or herbal remedies may seem to soothe the severity of inflammation that you see, but they don’t remove the source of the bacterial infection deep under your gum tissues.

What Makes Teeth Fall Out?
Every tooth is held into place by thousands of tiny little fibers, known as the “periodontal ligament” or PDL. The PDL is what attaches the tooth onto the surrounding gingiva (gum) and bone structures. But when gum disease invades, the ligaments start to detach from the tooth and adjacent tissues. When it does, it creates a deep pocket around the tooth, under the gums. The deeper the pocket, the less tissue and ligaments there are to hold your teeth in place. Gradually, teeth start to become mobile. If not intercepted, the infection will continue to expand into the surrounding tissues until there’s nothing left to hold the tooth in place. Once that happens, the tooth is so loose that it may simply lift out of the socket or fall out while you’re eating.

If I See a Periodontist, Will I Need to See My Regular Dentist Too?
That’s a great question! A lot of people wonder if they’ll ever go back to their regular dentist’s office or how the process works if they’re seeing a periodontist for the first time. One of the things that Dr. Saunders tells our patients in The Woodlands and Conroe is that it takes a team effort to keep your smile healthy once gum disease comes into play. A common routine is to continue seeing your general dentist and hygienist every six months, but between those visits you visit our periodontal office for a 3-month periodontal maintenance appointment. You’re seeing us every six months, your dentist every six months, and ultimately flip-flop between our two offices every three months. This process is only needed until we get your gum health back to where it needs to be! At that point, you can typically continue seeing your general dentist every 3 4-6 months. Or if you don’t have a general dentist, you can continue visiting our office in The Woodlands whenever you’re due up for a cleaning and exam. If you don’t have periodontal disease, but you’re coming to Dr. Saunders because your dentist referred you for dental implant treatment, we’ll complete the care process and then plan a transition back to your original oral health provider.

Who Qualifies for Dental Sedation?
Planning a complex smile makeover, dental implant therapy, or gum therapy means we’ll also want to plan for your comfort throughout the procedure. Thankfully, dental sedation is available for almost everyone. The sedatives come in varying levels and application methods, allowing Dr. Saunders to utilize the one that’s best for each individual. You may want to consider sedation dentistry if you require a lengthier procedure, want to “sleep” through the entire visit, or feel a little nervous about the process. Your comfort is always important to us, but sedation dentistry makes it easier to ensure the highest level of relaxation. When you’re comfortable, we’re able to work more efficiently. Sedation makes it possible to perform procedures in less time and even combine multiple treatments into one visit, when appropriate.

What is Crown Lengthening?

“Crown lengthening” is a procedure that plays a dual purpose. It can be both therapeutic as well as cosmetic. Essentially, the treatment involves reducing the height of gingiva (gum tissue) around a tooth, allowing the crown (the portion of tooth above your gums) to appear longer. It adds length both for functional as well as aesthetic purposes. For example, if you have deep pockets around your tooth that are too difficult to clean, crown lengthening will shorten the depth of the pocket so that it’s possible to maintain it with flossing and/or a water flosser. Or we may lengthen a crown if your general dentist needs to place a porcelain restorative crown/cap but the anatomical crown isn’t large enough. There are also instances where crown lengthening is used for “gummy smile” treatment. So, if there’s excessive gingiva that make your teeth look short or lopsided, evening out the gumline can add aesthetic appeal to your smile.

TeethXpress

Can I Get TeethXpress/Teeth in a Day?
Using 3D technology to map out the anatomy of your smile, dental implant treatments can now be shortened into a “teeth in a day” approach that Dr. Saunders offers, called TeethXpress. With TeethXpress, our patients in The Woodlands are able to replace all of their missing teeth in just one appointment. Depending on your oral anatomy, anywhere from 4-6 implants can be installed and a pre-mapped prosthesis attached directly over them at the same visit. To ensure a successful procedure, Dr. Saunders expertly screens each same-day implants case to make sure the individual qualifies. If you’re considering this revolutionary treatment, be sure to share any underlying medical conditions, medications that you’re taking — whether prescription, over the counter, or a supplement — and any allergies. Screening is essential to determining whether a person is a candidate for a same day TeethXpress treatment.

Do I Need a Referral to See a Periodontist?
Usually, no. In years past when HMO dental plans were common, dental insurance carriers often required patients to get a referral from their general dentist before visiting specialists like periodontists or orthodontists. Today, that’s not really the case. If you have gum problems and haven’t been to the dentist in years, or your dentist recommends seeing a gum specialist because of the severity of tissue detachment, you can call our office in The Woodlands or Conroe at your convenience. Dr. Saunders is always happy to consult with new patients to help them determine the best route of care for their smile.

My Gums Don’t Bleed. Can I Still Have Periodontitis?
Bleeding is one of the most noticeable signs of gum disease. If you have gingivitis, your gums probably bleed when you’re brushing and flossing. More aggressive periodontal disease includes bleeding as well as swelling, tooth mobility, and gum loss. But what if your gums don’t bleed at all? Is it possible to still have gum disease? Yes. Especially if you’re someone with an underlying health issue or who uses tobacco products. In fact, many tobacco users fail to notice the signs of gum disease, because of the inhibited bleeding. But if you’ve experienced bleeding in the past and it’s starting to improve — or it’s completely gone — there’s a good chance that your smile is on the road to recovery! Dr. Saunders will need to evaluate the tissues inside of your gum pockets to determine if the inflammatory process has halted.

How Does Smoking Affect Gum Disease?
When you smoke, it causes cellular changes inside of the tissues that line your mouth. The smoking can also lead to burns or atrophied blood vessels. In turn, it’s unlikely for your mouth to bleed very easily if you’re a smoker. That’s why many people who smoke may never realize that they have gum disease until other symptoms are severe. It’s possible for your gum tissues to look healthy from the outside — due to lack of swelling and bleeding — but be deteriorating underneath. If you’re a smoker, don’t rely on the absence of bleeding to be your guide as to whether your gums are infected or not. Talk with your dentist or our periodontist in The Woodlands about other factors, such as tissue detachment, tartar buildup, and loss of bone height.

Can Periodontists Treat Dental Emergencies?

Can Periodontists Treat Dental Emergencies?
If you’re in pain or have a knocked-out tooth, you may not think about calling a specialist for your emergency treatment. But in reality, they’re one of your best resources! As a periodontist, Dr. Saunders is an expert when it comes to the attachment tissues surrounding tooth roots. So if you’ve knocked out a tooth or suffered a blow to the mouth, we can work to get you out of pain as quickly as possible, work to reinsert and splint your tooth into place, and advise you on the next steps necessary.

What is Dental Implant Restoration?
Any time someone gets dental implants, there’s a “placement” phase and a “restorative” phase. The placement of your implant involves the installation of the artificial tooth root into the bone. Since implants are essentially the root portion, they do not extend up through the gums until an abutment is attached on top of them. The restorative phase is when the fixed restoration — such as a crown, bridge, or implant denture — is then affixed on top of the implant abutment. Depending on the type of implant therapy you’re getting and who your implant dentist is, these separate phases may not be completed on the same day. A dentist may ask Dr. Saunders to place your implants and then you return to their office for restoration. Or, you might come straight to Dr. Saunders for your implant therapy and we perform something like TeethXpress, where the implants are installed and restored at the same appointment.

How Long do Dental Implants Last?
We typically tell our patients that dental implants have the potential to last for the rest of your life. Since they’re extremely durable and resistant to decay, the important part is to keep the gums and bone around them healthy. Planning makes up an integral part of your implant’s success, which is why we utilize advanced 3D imaging and other dental technology to complete the implant installation. As long as you clean your implants daily with a toothbrush, WaterPic, and floss, and continue scheduling regular checkups and cleanings, you can maintain your implants for decades.

Does it Hurt to Get Implants?
Surprisingly, dental implant therapy is more comfortable than most people expect. Dr. Saunders incorporates sedation to help our patients relax, even if they feel a little nervous. Most people say that getting a dental implant is easier than having a tooth pulled. Since we digitally map your implant procedure prior to the appointment, the process is extremely accurate and minimally invasive. The streamlined process tends to be so comfortable that most people wish they hadn’t put their implant treatment off as long as they had.

What Types of Treatment are Offered at a Periodontist’s Office?
Although periodontists are best known for using treatments to combat gum disease, that’s just a fraction of what we do at our offices in The Woodlands and Conroe. Dr. Saunders is especially fond of working with smile makeover patients to complete dental implant therapy, smile restoration, and gummy smile treatments. Therapies like periodontal plastic surgery and laser gum disinfection give our patients a head-start on regaining control over their oral health, so that they can keep their smile healthy for life.

Are you looking for an implant specialist or periodontist in The Woodlands? Dr. Kip Saunders has over three decades of experience and is one of the leading experts in our area. Call our office today to request a consultation or new patient appointment.

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