Most people don’t know what a periodontist does — until they want dental implants or have serious problems with their gums.
In his new role as president of the American Academy of Periodontology, alumnus Dr. Wayne Aldredge, Class of ’92, hopes to change that and raise awareness of the effects of gum disease.
“It’s a challenge not only to educate the people who come in to my Holmdel practice but the public at large,’’ he said. “Periodontitis is the silent killer. Unless someone has a periodontal probe to evaluate where their bone is under their gum, they can’t tell they have it.”
The academy is the largest periodontal organization in the world with 8,400 members. Aldredge, who previously sat on the board of trustees, assumed his new role in November. It’s the perfect opportunity, he says, to showcase how periodontists can save smiles.
Educating the public about periodontal health also means correcting some misperceptions about gingivitis as a condition that stems entirely from poor oral hygiene, he said. “It’s not a dirty disease, but that’s what advertising shows, that you’re not brushing your teeth. There are plenty of people who brush their teeth every day and still develop gum disease. It can be genetic or fueled by tobacco use or diabetes, which is at epidemic proportions.”
Another goal for Aldredge is to draw attention to new technologies and procedures that are transforming the field by decreasing pain and recovery time, such as periodontal laser surgery. “It allows procedures to be done in a way that’s minimally invasive and as comfortable as possible, including the process of getting dental implants.”
Aldredge received his DMD degree from RSDM and a post-graduate certificate in periodontology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he is a clincal assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics and Dental Implantology. As an undergraduate, he attended Stockton College, where he majored in biology.
At RSDM, his mentor, Dr. Michael Deasey, Chair of the Periodontics Department, inspired him to specialize. “He lit a fire underneath me to start on this path.’’
Aldredge, an occasional guest lecturer at RSDM, is proud of the school’s reputation. “I love that we have some of the thought leaders in the field of periodontology right here on the faculty,’’ he said.
He met his wife, Dr. Suzanne Grubowski, a general dentist while, they were at RSDM. Recently, they discovered that their children, Connor and Parker, both teens, want to pursue dentistry.
Dr. Aldredge gives them the same encouragement he’d give other aspiring dentists. “Dentistry is an extremely vibrant field. There’s great opportunity out there as technology has enhanced the skills of dentists. You can do more for more patients. It’s all there, you just have to want to go for it.’’