Around 20-50% of the world’s population suffers from periodontal disease. In Australia, 23% of the population is thought to be suffering from gum disease, which can lead to significant impairment in the quality of life of a lot of patients.
In these circumstances, pursuing a career in periodontics can give you the opportunity to live an exciting, fast-paced life and allow you to make a difference in the lives of many patients. As orthodontics advance, newer and more exciting treatments continue to surface, so the field is only going to become even more sophisticated and exciting in the future.
This makes now a good time to think about a career in orthodontics. There are many successful periodontal clinics — such as NS Periodontics — and if you’d like to work at one in the future, here are the things you must do.
Step 1: Obtain an undergraduate degree
Before you can pursue dental education, you must obtain an undergraduate degree at a university.
Typically, a Bachelor’s degree is four years, and it’s here that you must build sound scientific concepts (especially those related to biology) in order to succeed in your upcoming dental education.
You should be aware that while dental college admission committees will consider all majors, you must have classes in maths, biology, physics, and chemistry at the upper-division level before you can apply to dental school.
It’s also important to note that academics are not the only thing that are going to get you a place at a dental school. Dental schools are usually on the lookout for well-rounded individuals who display a wide range of interests, in addition to being great at academics.
Leadership skills are particularly valuable here, so you should aim to develop them by doing volunteer work or participating in clubs and societies that your college might have.
It’s also important to develop meaningful relationships with your teachers, who can vouch for you later and provide you with letters of recommendation that can prove to be very valuable at the time of dental school admissions.
Finally, try to gather as much knowledge as you can about the dental field while at college. This will show the admission committee that you’re a dedicated and passionate individual who has taken out the time to explore dentistry in the busy days of college.
At the end of college, you’ll be expected to take the Dental Admission Test before you can get enrolled at a dental school.
Step 2: Ace dental school
If you think college is difficult, wait till you get into dental school. Dental schools are typically very competitive, and you’ll see many of your classmates struggling — some might even drop out.
But you must remember, the better your performance in dental school, the higher your chances of securing a spot in future orthodontic training.
Dental schools usually last for 4 years, and you get trained in all branches of dentistry. There’s a mix of classroom lectures, clinical laboratory work, and patient care. In the last 2 years of your dental school, you begin significant interaction with patients and actually treat various conditions.
If you can secure opportunities to work directly with practicing periodontist while at dental school, not only will your periodontal knowledge and experience skyrocket, but your chances of landing a periodontal residency will also improve significantly.
Of course, maintaining good grades is a must.
Step 3: Spend 3 years at an orthodontic residency
You’re not quite there when you graduate from dental school. Although you can practice as a general dentist, you don’t have field-specific expertise in orthodontics.
To get extensively trained in orthodontics, you must apply for an orthodontic residency after dental school, which is usually very competitive, and only a handful of spots are available around the country.
Things like volunteer experience and letters of recommendation are valuable when applying for a residency. Because the spots are so few, you need to convince program directors that you’ll be the most valuable addition to their team that year.
The more value (in the form of your experience, clinical work, and academic record) you bring to the table, the higher your chance of getting in.
Step 4: Obtain Board Certification if your country offers it
Once you graduate from your residency, you’ll be a trained periodontologist, fit to treat all kinds of periodontal conditions.
But you can go one step further and obtain board certification in periodontology if your country offers it.
According to 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.”
If you wish to become board certified, you’ll have to take numerous exams related to periodontal diseases and their treatment and present reports on various kinds of treatments. Once certified, you’ll be required to participate in continuing education classes and get your certification renewed every six years.
A board certification is a valuable credential to possess because in addition to polishing your periodontal skills and knowledge even further, it shows your patients that you’re a dedicated doctor and that they are in safe hands.