Career Definition for a Periodontist
|Degree Level||PhD; (requires bachelor's degree, 4 year dentistry program, and 3 year periodontics program)|
|Degree Field(s)||Chemistry, biology, or other health sciences related field|
|License/Certification||Licensure required for both dentistry and periodontics|
|Experience||Residency is part of education|
|Key Skills||Strong communication and customer service skills; manual dexterity and attention to detail; knowledge of business management concepts if starting a private practice|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||9% increase*|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$171,000 (for dental specialists)*|
Just as a dentist cares for our teeth, a periodontist cares for the health of our gums by preventing and treating gum diseases, such as gingivitis or periodontitis. In addition to attending to the health of our gums, a periodontist may also perform cosmetic treatments or provide dental implants. Typically, a patient is referred to a periodontist by a dentist who has determined that his or her patient may be developing gum disease. Though some periodontists work in partnership with other dental professionals, most own their own practices and employ a small staff.
Required Education and Licensing
It takes many years of study to become a periodontist. The journey begins by completing a bachelor's degree in chemistry, biology or a related topic and continues with four years of study in dentistry school where a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) is earned; the dental school must be accredited by the American Dental Association. After dentistry school, a student periodontist completes three additional years of study to specialize in periodontics and receive a Ph.D.
Licensing requirements vary by state; however, periodontists must hold a license to practice dentistry and a second license to practice periodontics. Each license requires completion of an exam.
Periodontists must have good communication skills to deal successfully with both patients and staff. Periodontists need a great deal of manual dexterity to manipulate small, sharp tools within the limited space of a mouth. Since most periodontists are also small business owners, basic knowledge of business management will be very helpful.
Career and Economic Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an employment growth rate of 9% from 2014 to 2024 for dentists whose area of specialization includes periodontics. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for dental specialists, including periodontists, was $171,000 in 2015.
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Alternate Career Options
Individuals interested in becoming periodontists have alternative career options, working as an optometrist or podiatrist.
An optometrist holds a 4-year Doctor of Optometry degree; even though prerequisites include three years of undergraduate education, most applicants have a 4-year bachelor's degree. Optometrists who want to specialize also complete a post-graduate residency program of one year; specializations can include family care, geriatrics, pediatrics and more. State licensing requirements apply. Optometrists can earn voluntary board certification. Optometrists use this education and training to provide eye care to patients. They diagnose eye- and vision-related problems, whether they're related to illness, injury or disease. They also prescribe treatment, like vision therapy, corrective lenses or medicines. Optometrists do not perform eye surgery although they can help with pre- and post-operative care.
From 2014 to 2024, the BLS expects jobs for optometrists to increase by 27%. The BLS also reports that optometrists earned a median annual wage of $103,900 in 2015.
Like an optometrist, a podiatrist holds a 4-year Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree; and again, while these professional programs require at least three years of undergraduate college, most applicants have a bachelor's degree. Graduates of podiatry programs complete 3-year residency programs. They must hold a state license, but licensing requirements vary. They may earn voluntary board certification, as well. Podiatrists provide specialty care to the lower extremities of the body: lower legs, ankles and feet. Podiatrists diagnose conditions pertaining to illness, injury or disease. They also provide treatment, like orthotics or surgery, and make referrals as needed.
Podiatrists can expect a job growth of 14% from 2014 to 2024, per the BLS. The median salary of podiatrists was $119,340 in 2015.