Difference Between Dentist & Periodontist

Dentists and periodontists are oral care experts. You can learn about the differences between these two dental careers, as well as some financial information about them, with this article.

Comparing Dentists to Periodontists

The main concern of both dentists and periodontists is a patient's oral health. Dentists are the general practitioners of oral issues in humans while periodontists are the gum experts who deal with inflammation and disease. We have prepared a comparison below of these two medical jobs along with some vital information on both.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Dentist Doctoral degree $159,770 (2016) 18%
Periodontist Doctoral degree $160,116 (2017)** 9-13% (dentists, all other specialists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

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Responsibilities of Dentists vs. Periodontists

Dentists and periodontists are very different oral care experts: one works on the general oral health of a patient, while the other homes in on the diseases associated with the gums. Dentists look after the overall oral care, from cavities to cleansing teeth. They'll take X-rays to determine teeth irregularity and problems with the bone. Periodontists are specialists who mainly concern themselves with gum disease caused by plaque and tartar. When these conditions get out of hand they turn into gingivitis, which can then become periodontitis. This problem can affect someone's overall health.


Dentists, like medical doctors, are first and foremost diagnosticians whose job it is to discover what is going on inside a person's mouth. A dentist checks the mouths of patients including teeth, gums and roots. They stay updated on the latest in X-ray and imaging technology to find cavity problems and mandible issues. They use specialized dental tools to probe areas to check pain severity and hole depth. They deal with the problems, prescribe pain medications and monitor their work depending on the severity or need for follow up.

Job responsibilities of a dentist include:

  • Promoting a person's health through proper oral care
  • Performing X-rays and imaging exams for diagnostic usage
  • Using dental tools to remove plaque and tartar in and around the teeth
  • Pulling teeth if tooth is beyond repair
  • Administering anesthetics to alleviate pain in affected areas


Gum inflammation can become a major problem to the point that people seek the help of a periodontist -- a dentist trained in gum disease so serious that it affects the rest of someone's health. Periodontists have been trained in and understand serious soft gum tissue problems that are usually caused by the buildup of plaque, tartar, and gingivitis, which can all lead to periodontitis. Periodontists normally will treat this severe inflammation with deep cleaning and antibiotics. However, if the disease is bad enough, surgery will be necessary.

Job responsibilities of an periodontist include:

  • Interpreting various tooth exams and imaging
  • Removing gingivitis-causing agents along the gum line and teeth
  • Administering numbing agents around areas needing attention
  • Pulling irreparable teeth
  • Performing tissue and bone grafts

Related Careers

Those interested in general dentistry might consider a career as a dental assistant. Dental assistants are trained personnel who aid dentists in basic oral care, taking X-rays and performing other clinical duties around the office. Periodontists often perform surgery to correct oral issues. For individuals interested in that aspect of periodontology, a career as a surgeon, who diagnoses an issue and uses surgical expertise to address the problem, might be an exciting option.

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