Dental Careers: Periodontists

If you're thinking about going into dentistry you might consider becoming a periodontist. Many people have never even heard of a periodontist, however, or are unsure of what one does. Basically, a periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the support systems of the teeth: namely, the gums and the periodontium, which is the tissue that surrounds the gums. (Every periodontist is a dentist, but not all scholars are periodontist.) The periodontist is also a specialist in the bones and ligaments in this part of the mouth as well. Basically, if you have something wrong with your gums you go to see a periodontist. He or she can treat gum disease and help patients get rid of gum inflammation. Gum disease and other infections of the bones around the teeth can be devastating to a person's mouth, and can result in the loss of teeth and bone density. In addition, they're just plain painful, and if your gums hurt your nutrition is likely to be affected as you will not feel like eating much.

Many times the only medical professionals qualified to fight such diseases are periodontists. In fact, sometimes regular dentists are unable to even detect some forms of gum disease, let alone treat them, and so patients who feel something might be wrong with their gums must schedule an appointment to see a periodontist to learn what's wrong. Periodontists can also perform cosmetic procedures on people's gums to improve the appearance of their smiles. These procedures usually involve inserting implants into the gums. Periodontists will then meet with the patients who've received implants on a semi-regular basis to perform maintenance work on those implants and make sure nothing's wrong.

It takes a long time to become a periodontist. To become a regular dentist you have to go to college as an undergraduate for four years, and then go to dental school for three years more. To become a periodontist, you need that bachelor's degree and you have to complete the standard three or four years of dental school. And then on top of that a periodonist has to complete three more years of training and education. (These periodontal programs must be accredited by the American Dental Association.) These courses of study will combine education in the anatomy and health of the gums and the supporting structures of teeth with hands-on experience. Many times students at this level will complete intensive internships in the offices of working periodontists so they will get a real feel for all the challenges and procedures that this profession involves. And when a person completes one of these programs, he or she must then take an exam that's administrated by the American Board of Periodontology. If a person does well enough on this test, then the American Board of Periodontology will grant him or her the status of Diplomate, and that person will be ready to start practicing as a registered periodontist.