Path To Become Periodontist Requires Many Years & Many Phases

Posted on Sep 03, 2013 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Labor Day always reminds me of how we choose our careers, sometimes knowing it will take years before we can actually “roll up our sleeves” and begin. When I decided to go into Periodontology, I knew it was a commitment of many years of study.

To clarify, a Periodontist is a dentist who continues in education and training, specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of problems related to the structures that support and surround the teeth.

To become a Periodontist, one must begin by attaining a bachelor’s degree before entering dental school, which typically requires 4 years of college. Once they graduate, they must pass a Dental Admissions Test.

Most dental school programs consist of 4 years in the classroom and laboratory, with the last two involving actual treatment of patients in clinics. Once this is completed and a dental degree attained, a graduate program in periodontics follows. In addition to a dental degree, entrants must first pass the rigorous National Board Exam.

Periodontal training is commonly a 3 year period. This covers how gum and bone diseases develop, as well as how they relate to other systemic diseases. The dentists participate in clinical trials of new therapies while also learning intricate aspects of dental implants and other surgical techniques.

When the educational phases are completed, licensing is required. In the U.S., all those in the dental profession must pass written and practical examinations before they can begin practice.

Once in practice, a Periodontist may begin his/her requirements to become Board Certified by the American Board of Periodontology. A Board Certified Periodontist is “one who has made significant achievements beyond the mandatory educational requirements of the specialty and who is certified by the American Board of Periodontology,” as defined by the ABP.

Board Certification requires: (1) Passing oral and written exams on all phases of periodontal disease and its treatment, including dental implants. (2) Presentation of detailed reports on a broad range of actual treatment. Once certified, Periodontists are required to take significant hours of continuing education on an annual basis and must be re-certified every 3 years to maintain Board Certification.

For those willing to tackle the rigorous educational, clinical and training requirements,  requiring 11+ years after high school, periodontology is, indeed, an interesting and exciting profession as research now relates so much to oral health. But moreso, I am so pleased to see patients go from a mouthful of problems to one with healthy, confident smiles. When it comes down to it, it’s not the ‘gums and supporting structures in the mouth’ that brought me to this profession. It was having the ability to help better the lives of people. That makes it all worth it!

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