Dental Jargon Explained – Periodontics

Dental Procedure Blog series

The following series of blogs will cover the different areas of dentistry. The aim is to simplify and explain the jargon that patients encounter in the normal course of dental visit. It is based on the Ontario Dental Association’s procedure categories and descriptions.

Periodontal services

These services all pertain to the gums and the bone holding/ supporting the teeth in the jaws. Consider these, i.e. the teeth, the periodontal ligament that holds them and the jaw bone that grows with the roots, as a single functioning unit. Like an automobile engine they have many components that function as one. Remove or damage one and the engine no longer functions well or at all.

Disease management

Soft tissue diseases ranging from gum disease to some of the neurological conditions and conditions like burning mouth syndrome have been relegated to the gum specialist’s bailiwick. Thus, the various forms of medicinal, chemotherapeutic and non-medicinal treatments can be found under the rubric of disease management.


Periodonitsts are known for surgery. Specifically gum surgery. One might ask what the difference between a periodontist and an oral surgeon might be. In terms of the gums only, it is the difference between a rough carpenter and a cabinet maker. The gum specialist is the plastic surgeon of the oral cavity.

The surgeries are many and various. Included in the list, but not limited to are tissue grafts, gingivectomies (shortening the gums),periodontal pocket reduction, hard and soft tissue grafts, and implant placement.


We touched on the splinting of teeth in the fixed prosthodontics blog. There are several ways to tie teeth together. This is done to help them support each other and to keep them stable while the disease is brought under control.

Root Planing and Scaling

To bring diseased periodontal pockets back to health, the accumulated calculus (scale) must be removed from the roots of the teeth. This is done by scaling and planing to get an infection free smooth root surface. Once the debris is removed (think barnacles on a ship’s hull), the tissues can heal since bacteria no longer have a surface on which they can develop their organized biofilm.

Scaling and root planning is the initial therapeutic intervention and it is the maintenance therapy after the tissues are healed. Periodontal disease is akin to other chronic illness. They are controlled by constant vigilance and maintenance therapy.

This is one of the shorter blogs in this series, but the area of periodontics is perhaps one of the most important to the mouth and the general health of an individual. Many systemic diseases are now being correlated to the infection and inflammation associated with gum diseases. If not the direct cause, gum disease certainly has an impact. The periodontium is the foundation of the dentition- you would not redecorate a house that has a burning basement!

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