A program that focuses on the advanced study of the etiology and treatment of diseases of the gingivae (gum tissue) and supporting bone, nerve, and vascular structures. Includes instruction in periodontium pathology, diagnostic procedures and equipment, occulsion, nutritional aspects of periodontology, surgical treatments, and patient care and management.

Periodontics/Periodontology Careers in Dentistry

A program that focuses on the advanced study of the etiology and treatment of diseases of the gingivae (gum tissue) and supporting bone, nerve, and vascular structures. Includes instruction in periodontium pathology, diagnostic procedures and equipment, occulsion, nutritional aspects of periodontology, surgical treatments, and patient care and management.

Periodontists take as their specialty focus the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and the supporting structures of the teeth --- in technical terms, the cementum, the periodontal ligaments, the alveolar (jaw) bone, and the gingiva.

Periodontists also claim the placement of dental implants squarely within their specialty scope of practice.

The organization that certifies the education and training of residents in periodontics, and that regulates the activities of certified periodontists practicing the specialty is the American Academy of Periodontology (www.perio.org)

Periodontists train up to an additional three years after dental school and specialize in non-surgical treatment and periodontal plastic surgery. The AAP has characterized periodontists as the ‘plastic surgeons of dentistry’ --- this from the infinitesimally-small micro-surgeries that re-shape the gum around each individual surface of each individual tooth, toward the goal of shaping the perfect smile within the existing biological structures of the individual patient.

Periodontists are specialists in gum graft surgery, laser treatment for gum surgery, gum regeneration surgeries, surgeries to build up gum that has been lost around individual teeth (pocket reduction) due to infection and inflammation, and periodontal plastic surgery procedures that simply improve the look of your smile.  Among these are gum replacement surgeries that take away the look of a gummy smile (reshaping and cutting away excess gum and bone tissue to expose more of the natural tooth, surgeries that replace gum to cover roots that have become exposed, or surgeries that replace gum to repair an area where jawbone has receded.

More than any other dental specialty, periodontists are dentistry’s clinical specialists in oral --- and systemic --- inflammation. Periodontists have pioneered the oral-systemic health link, being the dental specialty that identified the link between oral health and cardiovascular health, established the bi-directional link between diabetes and periodontal disease, and are moving forward aggressively to establish other links between oral health and systemic health by rigorous evidence-based dentistry.

In every procedure, the periodontist works to combat the further oral --- and then systemic --- spread of infection and inflammation. For instance, in the bread-and-butter periodontal pocket reduction procedure, the periodontist folds back inflamed gum tissue and removes the disease-causing bacteria, then secures the gum tissue back into place. If damaged bone is involved, the periodontist further smooths the area to reduce the number and size of areas where disease-causing bacteria can hide.

Regular maintenance such as this --- all within the regular practice of periodontics --- are the procedures that halt the progression of periodontal disease and help you maintain a healthy smile.

As always, when researching graduate residency programs to specialize in the study of periodontics, refer to the American Dental Association’s weblink of programs

The ADA website currently links to 56 programs in periodontics.

On its website, the American Academy of Periodontology lists a comprehensive guide to postdoctoral periodontal programs, with links to all U.S. and Canadian programs in periodontics, their official guide to periodontal externships and an important form, postdoctoral periodontal admission information and important forms, and information about periodontal programs participating in the Postdoctoral Dental Matching Program through the National Matching Services (NMS)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites salary and career outlook information for the specialty of periodontics as among other dental specialties.