Specializing in Periodontics

Interested in pursuing a specialty in periodontics? Read below for an interview of my colleague, Sharlene, who is entering her periodontic residency this fall! She provides some great advice for dental students who are considering perio!

1. What general advice do you have for students interested in specializing in periodontics?

The more exposure you get, the better. Assist in PG perio, observe in a private practice perio office, do small perio surgeries in our OS floor (for example, crown lengthening, socket preservation, vestibuloplasty, etc).

2. What can a D1/D2 (prior to entering clinic) do to make him/herself a competitive candidate for a periodontic residency?

Research. Every perio program has a research component- some have a master’s program attached to it that require a thesis. You don’t need to do research in a perio field, but a bit of research will really help your application. Volunteer, be part of the perio society, make sure you know that there is more to perio than scaling and root planing.

3. What can a D3/D4 (currently in clinic) do to make him/herself a competitive candidate for a periodontic residency?

In clinic, make sure you spend time with the perio faculty (i.e., don’t work just with the residents- you may want to have a letter of rec from a perio faculty member). Do perio surgeries in the OS clinic, such as crown lengthening. Become comfortable with extractions and suturing. The more surgical procedures you do the more comfortable you will be talking about them during interviews. Also, the more you are able to assist in post-grad perio, the better. Tell the residents that you are interested in perio- they were always willing to explain things to me. Again, the more perio surgeries you’re exposed to, the more you can talk about in your apps and interviews.

4. What types of questions can students expect in their interview?

I had some interesting questions- such as what were my worst 5 traits, what do my friends think of me, did I like my dental school, do I learn better in a group or individual setting, what was the biggest hardship in dental school and did it affect my grades, what was my favorite part about dental school? Then there were the more typical questions- Why perio? How would I incorporate volunteerism into a specialty field? Would I work in private practice, education, or research? There were SEVERAL questions about my research project, and what type of research I would like to do during my residency. Almost all perio programs require research and require for you to work in the undergrad clinic- so make sure you don’t mind research and don’t mind teaching. Other questions included why that specific school, what did I think of the new perio classification system, state a research hypothesis and what my control vs test groups would be, name as many bacteria in the oral cavity as I could, and what do I think a periodontist’s role in dentistry is. One school had me demonstrate scaling on a typodont, and placing sutures (it was actually fun to do something other than answering questions). Everyone was very nice during the interviews, and they’re usually just trying to see if you would fit into the school. Remember- you’re also interviewing them. Have questions ready to ask them about their program.

Also, one more interview question they asked me was how many extractions, crowns, bridges, and dentures I had done. They were trying to see how well-rounded I was and whether I would graduate on time.

5. How can students set themselves apart from other candidates interested in periodontics?

Your experiences with perio. Have you done/been exposed to procedures? Have you attended CE perio courses? I would try to attend online CE perio courses, if you can.

I hope you enjoyed my interview with Sharlene! She dished out some insightful advice (which doesn’t surprise me…she’s a dental powerhouse)! Be sure to check out my other posts on AEGD vs. GPR, Peds Residencies, Ortho Residencies, OS Residencies, and Endo Residencies.

Are you interested in specializing in perio? How are you preparing for your future specialty? Comment below!


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