A periodontist is a dental health specialist, whose area of interest is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of periodontal disease. These experts also work with dental implants, and treat oral inflammation.
Not only do periodontists have more training in these areas, they also have more experience and familiarity with the latest technology and treatment for periodontal disease.
The Periodontist Job Description
If patients have severe gum disease or a complicated medical history, a periodontist is their best bet. For example, patients with diabetes or heart disease should see a periodontist. They scale and plane roots, debride the surface, and also perform surgical procedures.
Some of what the periodontist does will be familiar. He will take a probe and check the depth of periodontal pockets, so he can track and measure gum line recession. Periodontal disease is very serious as it is the number one cause of tooth loss.
Additionally, there have been many studies connecting the health of your gums to your overall health. Your risk of stroke, for example, is lowered if you routinely see your dentist and floss. This is believed to be due to the inflammation that occurs with gum disease. Inflammation spreads throughout the body and is at the root of many illnesses.
The periodontist also does cosmetic procedures. For example, he may perform lip lowering plastic surgery to correct a smile that is too “gummy.” They also perform surgery for other reasons, such as gum grafts to help a receding gum line.
How does someone become a periodontist?
These specialists are very well trained. Not only do they have the same bachelors and dental school degrees as your dentist, they have three additional years of school. Most earn a Ph.D.
In order to consider becoming a periodontist, you want to begin your foundation in high school. Be sure to take as many high level science and math courses as you possibly can. Maintain a high GPA and do well on the SAT.
Select a liberal arts college or university which prepares its students for graduate work. These schools are well known to graduate programs for preparing their students for the rigor and commitment of graduate school.
You can major in whatever you would like. However, you must take upper level science courses. Organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, physics, and calculus are all courses you need to take and do well in.
You need a 3.5 GPA in your science and math classes. Additionally, it will serve you well to take sculpting for the dexterity. Also, business classes are useful since you will be running your own business when you open your office.
Sociology and psychology will be helpful since you work with the public. English classes will help you develop critical thinking and empathy. Your overall GPA can’t drop below a 3.5.
The Dental Admission Test
You must also take the Dental Admission Test (DAT), which is a challenging test. Higher level science and math are required to do well on this test. You will be asked to decipher quantitative studies which utilized complex mathematical operations.
You will also have to do well on the perceptual ability section, which can be maddening to many people. The reading sections are lengthy and challenging as well.
Dental school is rigorous. You must also take and pass Part I and II of the the National Board Dental Exam (NBDE).
After Dental School
After dental school, the periodontist then continues on to a residency program where he hones his craft, experience, and knowledge base. This residency will take three years to complete. Very few candidates are accepted each year, so this is a competitive program.
(University of Pittsburgh, for example, only accepts two students each year.) So if you think you want to pursue becoming a periodontist, you will need to be driven and hold yourself to high standards.
Periodontists typically work for themselves, but some opt to work as part of a practice in tandem with other dentists. Still, others work for a hospital.
Some periodontists go on to become researchers or teachers. The average annual periodontist salary is $120,000. If you choose to run your own office, you will have a great deal of flexibility in terms of your work-life balance. Your office will have to be staffed with assistants as well.
Good luck on your journey to becoming a successful Periodontist.