Periodontists are dental specialists who specialize in the treatment of gum disease and other dental conditions. They work with patients to diagnose their periodontal (gum) health and guide them on how to maintain optimal oral health. This includes giving advice on how to brush and floss, as well as recommending the most suitable treatments for various periodontal issues.
Periodontists may choose to focus on a specific area of their practice, such as treating gum disease or performing dental implants. Others may specialize in a particular type of treatment, such as restorative dentistry or orthodontics. Though the specialty areas vary from periodontist to periodontist, they all share a common goal: to help patients achieve long-lasting oral health and wellness.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a periodontist and what it takes to become one yourself.
Periodontist Job Duties
Duties of a periodontist include the following:
- Examining patients thoroughly to identify the cause of such problems as tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral disorders
- Diagnosing and treating trauma, infections, and other dental problems in patients’ gums and supporting soft tissues such as bone, ligaments, or tendons
- Conducting surgery to repair gum disease or expose impacted teeth that have not yet erupted into the mouth
- Administering medication to reduce pain and facilitate comfort during treatments
- Administering treatments such as laser or ultrasonic scaling and antibacterial drug therapy for patients with periodontal disease
- Referring patients who may be candidates for tooth extraction procedures for further evaluation by a dentist
- Prescribing oral hygiene products such as toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash to remove plaque and tartar accumulation from teeth and gums
- Managing patient care after treatment has been completed
Periodontist Salary & Outlook
The median salary for periodontists is $185,230. The highest earners make over $350,000 per year.
The number of jobs for periodontists is expected to remain steady over the next decade. This is due to the growing population, which leads to an increasing number of patients who are susceptible to periodontal disease.
Periodontist Job Requirements
There are many qualifications required to become a periodontist. They include:
Education: Periodontists must first earn a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university before attending dental school. Most dental schools require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in pre-dental studies and many times also require biology and chemistry courses. Dental school is four years long and includes coursework such as oral surgery, orthodontics and pharmacology.
Training: After graduating from dental school, dentists can qualify for a position as a periodontist by completing a residency program. A periodontist residency program takes three years and requires candidates to work under a licensed dentist. During their residency, candidates learn advanced treatment techniques like root planing and periodontal flap surgery. This period of learning hands-on experience helps periodontists understand how to provide better care for patients.
Certifications: Periodontists are required to be licensed to practice, and requirements vary from state to state. Although not required, they may also decide to pursue a certification specific to periodontal medicine. The American Board of Periodontology offers a certification called Diplomate in Periodontology. To obtain this certification, a periodontist must pass a comprehensive exam covering a myriad of topics. Their examination includes topics such as periodontal diagnosis, periodontal therapy, and oral surgery.
A periodontist must have the following skills:
Technical knowledge: A periodontist should be knowledgeable about the use of new dental materials and techniques.
Patience: This is a very slow-paced profession, with most procedures taking more than an hour to complete.
Social skills: Periodontists must have excellent communication skills in order to discuss treatment options with patients and their families.
Analytical skills: A periodontist should be able to analyze patient problems, review X-rays, and take measurements to develop a treatment plan.
Physical stamina: Because this is a very physical job, periodontists must be able to perform it for long periods of time without getting tired.
Time management skills: Periodontists must know how to manage time well so that they can complete necessary procedures on schedule.
Periodontist Work Environment
The work environment of periodontists can vary greatly depending on where they are employed. Many practice in private offices, but others work for public health services or institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes. Their work space is usually comfortable, with little physical demands. They may have to stand or sit for long periods of time. In addition, they may travel frequently to attend training or educational meetings.
They usually work long hours including evenings and weekends, especially when new patients need their attention.
Periodontist Career Path
New graduates start out as assistants to established periodontists. As they gain experience and knowledge, however, they may be able to establish their own practices. During this time it is important to develop a clientele. The profession is competitive and many dentists choose to stay with their employers rather than try to start their own practices—only about half of those who seek independent practice succeed.
Five Years On The Job
In their fifth year, most periodontists have moved into private practice. They still have a long way to go before they can afford to open a solo practice. Most periodontists work in small group practices or large hospitals. They have begun to specialize in certain areas of patient care, such as implants or cosmetic dentistry. Most periodontists are satisfied with their career choice; it offers good income and opportunities for growth.
Ten Years On The Job
Over ten years, periodontists have built a solid client base and a successful practice. They have become leaders in their communities—not only in the dental field—and have made important contributions to the profession as a whole. Some may also teach at universities or serve as consultants for dental manufacturers or governmental agencies.
Here are three trends influencing how periodontists work. Periodontists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Advances in 3D Printing Technology
Over the past few years, there has been a surge of interest in 3D printing technologies that are making it easier for dentists to create a wide range of models and designs for use in their practices.
As a result, dental procedures have become more precise and less invasive. Periodontists can now make minor adjustments or address minor problems before the procedure begins—which saves both time and money while also reducing patient discomfort.
Increasing Value of Remote Dental Care
With the increasing popularity of telemedicine and telehealth services, patients are gaining access to affordable and convenient dental care.
Patients can connect with periodontists through various online platforms or via telephone and video calls to obtain immediate support for oral health concerns such as tooth pain, bleeding gums, and sensitive teeth.
Increasing Interest in Natural Dentistry
As consumers become more interested in healthy lifestyles, they are looking for ways to take better care of their teeth and gums.
In addition to learning about the benefits of a natural diet and an active lifestyle, many people are also exploring alternative approaches to dental care that do not involve chemicals or invasive procedures.
For example, some people have begun using essential oils or baking soda as a way to whiten their teeth, as well as coconut oil as a natural treatment for gum disease. In addition, many patients are opting for laser dentistry as an alternative to traditional procedures.
How to Become a Periodontist
1. Planning Your Career
Aspiring periodontists should consider their passion for dentistry as well as their communication skills; they will be working with patients who are anxious about having their teeth pulled or seeing their gums injured, so comfort in these situations is key.
A career as a periodontist involves not only technical skills but also people skills. It’s important to know that this is an emotional field; it’s difficult for many patients to see their dentist regularly, so you need to be able to build trust and rapport with them quickly.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for periodontists highlight their experience in the field, their knowledge of the latest developments, and their individual strengths. It’s important to demonstrate your skills as a periodontist by offering specific details about your past roles. For example, you may want to talk about how you worked with a team of specialists or made improvements to a process. In order to demonstrate your ability to treat patients, you can include examples of positive patient interactions.
It’s important that you include any relevant education and training from dental school as well as any continuing education courses that you have attended. It’s also worth listing membership in professional organizations that demonstrate your commitment to ongoing professional development and keeping up with industry standards.
3. Applying for Jobs
Getting your foot in the door as a periodontist is all about creating relationships with people who are already working in the field. Join professional organizations, volunteer at clinics that offer free services to those in need, and ask the dental school professors at your school for referrals. The more you participate in the periodontal community, the more familiar you’ll become with others who are interested in similar career paths, and the more likely you’ll be to make connections that lead to potential jobs.
4. Ace the Interview
When you are preparing for your interview, take the time to research the company, its history, and its market presence. Find out what you would be responsible for. Think of your past experience and how you have performed these tasks in the past.
When asked questions about why you are interested in this particular position or company, make sure to discuss how you plan to contribute to things that are important to your interviewer. When preparing your responses to questions, keep them relevant and concise. Include specific examples when possible.