Resident Kerry Simpson, DDS, performs an implant procedure.

A new postgraduate program at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry trains dentists to become specialists in preventing and treating gum disease and related conditions in the use of dental implants.

Gian Pietro Schincaglia, DDS, PhD, will lead “Periodontology and Dental Implant Surgery,” which is designed for students to develop a better understanding of periodontal disease and the prevention and management of this condition.

“The purpose of the program is to generate board certified periodontists to serve West Virginia’s population and to support general dentists in treating periodontal diseases and related conditions,” said Schincaglia. “Our goals also include offering cutting-edge technologies for the replacement of missing teeth with dental implants.”

West Virginia has a 14% rate of severe tooth loss, which is almost seven times higher than the global rate of 2.5%. Also, 8% of its residents have severe gum disease. Two factors that increase the severity of gum disease, diabetes and smoking, are prevalent in the state.

For example, more than one in seven adults in West Virginia have diabetes. That’s the second highest rate in the nation, the university reports. Plus, 25.7% of adults in the state smoke, compared to 17.5% of adults nationwide.

“A patient who sees blood when brushing their teeth, sees teeth moving slowly, or notices the space between teeth growing is already showing the clinical signs of periodontitis,” Schincaglia said. “Unfortunately, when teeth begin to move from gum disease, it’s almost too late for effective treatment.”

The program is also implementing clinical research to develop innovative approaches for the treatment of periodontal diseases and conditions related to dental implants. The first certified periodontology residents will graduate in 2020.

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