A lot of people might know little, or possibly nothing at all when asked what a periodontist is, until the day they are referred to one. Higher Education Today talked to Dr Mohd Salman Masri, a postgraduate student from Faculty of Dentistry of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) on his ongoing study on Periodontology and the least talked dental specialty in Malaysia.

Dr Mohd Salman Masri from Faculty of Dentistry of Universiti Teknologi Mara Malaysia. Photo by HE Today.

1. Could you introduce yourself?

I am Dr Mohd Salman Masri, and I am currently doing my doctorate degree in Dentistry, specializing in Periodotology. I have another four more years as we speak, and it’s still  a long way to go.

2. What exactly a Periodontist does?

To answer this question, I think one has to understand what periodontal disease is. If you have any infection of the gum tissue, for example tartar buildup or gingivitis, and it needs a special attention, you will be referred to a periodontist. A periodontist specialises in the treatment and diagnosis of gum disease and supporting structures of the teeth. They also prevent the recurrence of disease and stop its progression to reduce the loss of teeth.

In layman term, periodontists are experts in gum disease treatment.

Dr Salman Masri believes that periodontology is the best dental specialty for him. Photo by HE Today

3. How does one know if  he or she needs to see a periodontist?

You normally don’t, until you are referred to one. Some people do not give much attention if their gums hurt or inflamed. Gums, when get inflamed and not treated at the earliest can be damaged deeply. Ultimately, it can cause the teeth to become loose and in worst case scenario, it can lead to tooth loss. These kinds of cases should be referred to a Periodontist. Some dental problems, weather one realises it or not, may progress to the point where only a Periodontist may be able to help.

4. Of all other branches in dentistry, what inspired you to pursue your speciality in Periodontology?

There are doctors in my family and it was their influence that first led me to consider dentistry. I have worked as a general dentist for many years and I realised that I enjoy the satisfaction of helping patients maintain their dentition. I enjoy it the most when my patients start taking care of their dental health. Some took a drastic turn to stop smoking after their teeth and gums are fixed. And I do enjoy the technology advances in dentistry, especially in Periodontology. This specialty just seemed to be the perfect fit for me.

5.  What additional skills have you learned from this specialty?

A postgraduate student is finishing dental implant for a patient to mimic the lost root structures of his or her missing teeth. Photo by HE Today

I learn that dentistry is about mastering arts and science. For example, people will not be satisfied if their dentures are all white. They would want you to imitate real teeth, so that’s what we have to do. You can’t just rely on theories. You need to be the artist as well. The end products are the best when the patients are happy with them.

6. What advice would you give to anyone considering this specialty?

Brains alone are not enough, you have to be skilled with your hands. I was once reminded that a dentist does not only fix teeth. We are a combination of doctors, scientists and engineers.

It takes a sharp mind to master the science of dentistry, and there is also an art to care for patients’ teeth. The role of a great dentist bridges both.

Watch the video to learn more about our interview.