My Dad and me. This picture was taken in 2011 when I was awarded the Richard G. Lazara Implant Fellowship Award, the largest monetary award given by the American Academy of Periodontology Foundation.
Asking someone why they chose their profession usually comes with a story that includes some discussion about their interests, an influential teacher, or an individual who introduced them to their vocation. In this article, I would like to share my story with you about how I came to be a periodontist. This story is just as much about my family as it is about my profession and begins before I was even born.
My grandfather was raised on a farm in southern Alberta, Canada. I don’t know why he chose to become a dentist, but he broke with the farming tradition and became the first dentist in my family. After completing dental school in Edmonton, he returned to a town close to home and worked in private practice from the 1950s to the 1980s.
One of the stories I love about my grandfather is how he was able to provide same-day dentistry. For example, crown preparation was often completed in the morning. He would then wax up the crown in the patient’s mouth, cast the crown over lunch, and finally deliver the crown at the end of the day. The goal today is still the same as in my grandfather’s time, just achieved with modern technology.
My father chose to follow in his father’s footsteps. I am the oldest of seven children, and I was born in Canada during the summer between college and dental school. At six weeks of age, my parents put me in a box (there were no car seats back then) and drove to Chicago so my dad could attend Northwestern Dental School. Periodontology was a fairly new specialty back then, and after dental school, my dad chose to complete a two-year residency. After his residency, he worked in Chicago for a couple of years before moving our family back to Canada to start his own practice.
Growing up, I loved being around my dad’s practice. As a teenager, I was allowed to watch my dad perform the occasional surgery. I liked what I saw, and so began my journey to dental school. After completing dental school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I worked as a general dentist for two years in Canada. I realized during this time that I wanted to be a periodontist just like my dad. I soon returned to complete a three-year periodontal residency at the Medical College of Georgia.
My dad and I love to talk “shop” as it is referred to in our family. I also have a brother who is a general dentist. Put the three of us into a room together and we can keep each other entertained for hours exchanging dental stories and ideas. During these discussions, I often get animated and excited. There is so much I love about being a periodontist!
I feel so fortunate to be able to go to work each day and do something I love! My family’s deep connection to dentistry also deepens my love for my profession. In the future, I hope one of my children will choose to follow in my footsteps and find joy in their career as a dentist too.
Dr. Christopher M. Bingham