Do you enjoy math and science? Are you confident and good with your hands? Most importantly, would you like a career in dentistry and could you see yourself working with patients? Periodontology is a specialty subject within dentistry that focuses on the health of the gums and bones. Read on for more information.
Periodontology is a specialty area of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and cure of diseases that affect the gum tissues and bones surrounding the teeth, as well as the placement and maintenance of dental prostheses and implants. As a periodontist, you may work with patients of all different age groups, helping them to identify, cure and avert complications related to the teeth and gums. Through different types of behavioral therapies, surgical reconstruction procedures and tissue grafting, you'll be able to help patients with a number of dental complications, ranging from bleeding gums to bone loss. Like most dentists, periodontists work typical 40-hour workweeks in an office setting, either alone or with a group of other dentists.
If you're interested in becoming a periodontist, you should expect favorable job prospects over the next several years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the employment outlook for the dentistry field, including periodontists, is expected to grow by 16% from 2008 to 2018 (www.bls.gov). This will be largely be due to the aging baby boomers' increasing need for dental care. The BLS also noted that the average annual salary for dentists was $158,770 as recently as May 2010; however, this can vary depending on dentistry specialty and work environment.
You'll need to begin your education at the undergraduate level. It is a good idea to enroll in many science classes, since you'll need to take them at some point in your education. You'll need to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) to become eligible to apply to dental school. You might be admitted into a 4-year dental school after a few years of coursework; in that case, you'll finish your bachelor's degree during the dental program.
Dental school involves classroom lectures and laboratory requirements as well as practical clinical rotations. During the clinical component in the second half of training, you'll gain experience working directly with patients. You can earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) dental degree upon completing the program.
After you graduate from a dental school, you must engage in additional residency training to specialize in periodontics. The passing of the first part of the National Dental Board Examination will be necessary for admission, and you can expect intense competetion for admission into these 3-year training programs. Your training may be in the form of a postdoctoral certificate. Or, you might choose a master's or doctoral level program in a field like oral biology or clinical dentistry. A degree program would incorporate the certificate program in periodontology into the curriculum.
As a student in a periodontology training program, you may take classes on a variety of subjects related to the field. Topics may include advanced surgical techniques, advanced implant techniques, oral medicine, oral science research, bone tooth structure, craniofacial development, minor tooth movement, peridontal pathology and microanatomy of oral tissues. You'll have additional clinical rotations that often focus on surgical procedures. Contribution to the field in the form of research is also a common program requirement.
Upon completing your periodontology training program, you'll need to earn a state license in dentistry before you can begin practicing independently. Each state has its own licensure requirements, but you'll generally need to pass written and practical exams. According to the BLS, most state licenses allow you to work in both dentistry and your dental specialty.