Dentists have historically served a number of purposes, including pulling a tooth to stop a patient’s pain and treating cavities. Eventually, dentists got involved in gum disease treatment as a means of conquering tooth decay, which led to people holding onto their teeth. Some dentists today still have a much more mechanical approach and frequently pull teeth.
An important part of the art of dentistry is knowing when it is best to replace a tooth rather than to work to retain it. In my periodontal practice, I have helped many people save their teeth in situations where other dentists would have pulled the teeth. There is a point where, as a knowledgeable and experienced practitioner, I have to make the decision to work hard to save teeth when extracting teeth would be easier.
There is time when periodontal (gum) disease is not debilitating, but during this time it is deforming the dentition and the long-term result can be unsightly smiles. It takes a long time for periodontal disease to render someone unable to eat, or unable to speak or smile as a result of tooth loosening. When a person seeks treatment, that individual has decided that it is better to face their problems and seek a solution rather than live with periodontal disease, which is progressive.
As a periodontist, I set out to focus on and study how to avoid losing teeth due to gum disease, which is a treatable problem that should not lead to tooth loss. My view is that if you treat the disease early enough, the problem stops and there is no need to pull teeth in many cases. Patients have excellent results from periodontal treatment and enjoy years of healthy smiling afterward.
Dr. Karl A. Rose
Chevy Chase, MD