Many people find themselves confused about the difference between endodontists vs periodontists. This can be especially true when it comes to understanding their specific areas of specialization. Although both types of dental specialists focus on different aspects of oral health, it can be difficult to know when to see one over the other. Endodontists primarily deal with the inner tissues of the teeth, while periodontists focus on the supporting structures of the teeth, including the gums and bone. In this blog post, we’ll clarify the distinctions between an endodontist and a periodontist, and discuss when you might need to visit one or the other.

What is an Endodontist? 

An endodontist is a dental specialist who has completed additional years of education and training beyond dental school. They focus specifically on the diagnosis and treatment of issues related to the inner tissues of the teeth, known as the dental pulp. The word “endodontist” comes from the Greek words “endo,” meaning inside, and “odont,” meaning tooth. Endodontists are experts in maintaining the health of the dental pulp, which is the soft tissue located inside the root canal of the tooth. 

The main goal of an endodontist is maintaining and preserving natural teeth. They are often referred to as the “tooth-saving specialists” because they focus on treatments that help to retain the natural tooth structure. The dental pulp, which is the focus of an endodontist’s work, contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues that nourish and support the tooth. When the pulp becomes inflamed or infected, it can cause pain and discomfort, and if left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. 

What is a Periodontist? 

A periodontist is a highly trained dental professional who undergoes advanced education and training after completing dental school. They primarily focus on the specialized care of periodontal disease, which impacts the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. The term “periodontist” is derived from the Greek words “peri,” signifying around, and “odont,” meaning tooth. These specialists possess expertise in preserving and enhancing the health of the gums and the bones that hold the teeth in place.

Periodontists play a critical role in maintaining and preserving oral health by focusing on the prevention and treatment of gum disease. Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and has also been linked to systemic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease. 

Periodontists are skilled in diagnosing and treating gum disease at various stages of progression. They use a variety of tools and techniques to assess the health of the gums and bone, and to detect any signs of infection or inflammation. Periodontists are also trained to manage complex cases of gum disease, including those that may require surgical intervention. 

What Treatments Each One Can Do 

Endodontic Treatments

Below is a list of the most common treatments performed by endodontists: 

  • Root canal therapy: This is the most common treatment performed by endodontists. It involves removing the infected or damaged pulp from the tooth, cleaning and shaping the root canal, and filling it with a biocompatible material to seal and protect the tooth. 
  • Apicoectomy: This is a surgical procedure that is performed when a root canal treatment is not successful. It involves removing the tip of the root and sealing the end of the root canal. 
  • Pulpotomy: This is a procedure that is often performed on children with baby teeth. It involves removing the infected pulp from the crown of the tooth, while leaving the pulp in the root intact. 
  • Dental trauma management: Endodontists are trained to manage dental emergencies, such as traumatic injuries to the teeth, and to perform re-treatment of previously treated teeth that have not healed properly. 

Periodontal Treatments

Some common treatments performed by periodontists include: 

  • Scaling and root planing: This is a deep cleaning procedure that involves removing plaque and tartar from the teeth and smoothing the root surfaces to help the gums reattach to the teeth. 
  • Gum surgery: This may be necessary in cases of advanced gum disease to remove damaged tissue and reshape the gums.
  • Dental implants: Periodontists are experts in the placement and maintenance of dental implants, which are used to replace missing teeth. 
  • Bone grafting: This is a procedure that is often performed to replace lost bone tissue and to encourage the growth of new bone.
  • Soft tissue grafting: This is a procedure that is used to cover exposed root surfaces or to improve the appearance of the gums.

What Treatments Each One Can’t Do 

While endodontists and periodontists are both dental specialists, they typically don’t perform the same treatments although there certainly can be some overlap. For example, both endodontists and periodontists may be involved in the treatment of dental trauma, such as a tooth that has been knocked out or displaced. In these cases, an endodontist may be called upon to perform a root canal to address damage to the pulp, while a periodontist may be involved in re-implanting the tooth and treating any damage to the supporting structures. 

Additionally, both endodontists and periodontists may deal with the placement and maintenance of dental implants. While periodontists are typically the primary providers of dental implants, endodontists may also place implants in certain cases, such as when a tooth has been lost due to a root canal failure. 

When Should You See a Periodontist? 

You should consider seeing a periodontist if you’re experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease or if you have risk factors that make you more susceptible to the condition. Some common symptoms of periodontal disease include: 

  • Red, swollen, or tender gums 
  • Gums that bleed easily, especially when brushing or flossing
  • Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth 
  • Receding gums, or gums that have pulled away from the teeth 
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite, or changes in the fit of partial dentures 

When Should You See an Endodontist?

It’s a good idea to see an endodontist if you’re experiencing symptoms of a tooth infection or if you have suffered a traumatic injury to your tooth. Below is a list of symptoms that may indicate the need to see an endodontist: 

  • Severe tooth pain or sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures 
  • Swelling, tenderness, or discoloration of the gums around a tooth 
  • Pimple-like bumps on the gums near a tooth 
  • Pain that radiates to the jaw, ear, or other areas of the face or head In addition to these symptoms, you may also need to see an endodontist if you have a tooth that has been damaged by decay, a crack or fracture, or if you have a tooth that has been previously treated with a root canal and is not healing properly. 

Can Dentists Do Periodontal Work? 

General dentists can perform certain periodontal procedures, but the extent of the periodontal work they can do will depend on their training and experience. Most general dentists are trained to diagnose and treat mild to moderate cases of periodontal disease. Common periodontal procedures that general dentists may perform include scaling and root planing. 

The Endodontist vs. Periodontist Guide Conclusion 

Both endodontist and periodontist specialists play a critical role in maintaining and preserving oral health by providing specialized treatments that help to alleviate pain and discomfort, and restore oral function and aesthetics. At Utah Periodontal Specialists, our doctors have years of experience in providing comprehensive periodontal treatments. When you choose us for your oral health needs, you can rest assured that you’re in trusted and experienced hands.