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The Wide Age Range of Periodontitis

June 8, 2020

The Wide Age Range of Periodontitis

Yetta McCullom, DDS, MS



Marty Klein: Welcome to Dentistry for the New Millennium. I am Marty Klein, Training Manager at the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry, and today we’re speaking with Dr. Yetta McCullom of Chicago. Dr. McCullom is a board certified periodontist, originally graduating from Howard University and later earning her certificate in periodontics from Northwestern University. She serves with us as a certified instructor for the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry. Today, we’ll talk about her journey with LANAP and the PerioLase and the wide age range of patients she treats with gum disease in the area in which she practices. Dr. McCullom, Thanks so much for joining us today.

Dr. Yetta McCullom: Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate that.

MK: So let’s start with your story in adopting the LANAP protocol, just how and when and where you did so and then we’ll talk about how it incorporated into your practice.

YM: Okay! So, once upon a time, back in 2008, I was in search of a more effective way to take care of my patients and their needs, and I was looking into different types of lasers. I had done my research in dental school on the Nd:YAG laser and the CO2 laser and wound healing. I was in the market for a new laser, in addition to the CO2 that I already owned. I went to Seattle [at the AAP meeting that year] to purchase a diode laser based on the recommendation of a consultant that was a dental hygienist. When I arrived in Seattle, my dear friend, Dr. Kirk Noraian, told me about the PerioLase. I think it took me about five minutes to decide that this would be perfect for me, and so I purchased it and have been enjoying taking care of my patients on this south side of Chicago ever since.

MK: So how much did you treat gum disease before that point vs. since acquiring the PerioLase and LANAP?

YM: Well, I’ve always limited my practice to periodontics, so I was doing guided tissue regeneration, conventional osseous surgery – pretty much 100% of the time. That was the extent of my practice.

MK: Since incorporating the PerioLase and LANAP, did the ratio of using the PerioLase vs. those other methods change? Did quantity of patients increased? What happened after you started doing LANAP, in other words?

YM: The first year I got the PerioLase, I had a fair number of patients that decided against conventional osseous surgery, so they accepted the LANAP protocol. They were kind of in the category, we would call them “monitor patients”, where we were doing the three-month maintenance, but they needed more. I had a big spike in case acceptance within the practice that first year, that first 2-3 years, my numbers just went very high, as far as the quadrants of LANAP that I was doing. So yeah, that was kind of a big boost to my practice when I first bought the laser things how plateaued off now. But case acceptance has not been nearly as difficult since I present the option of the LANAP protocol.

MK: That’s always great to hear. Now I know currently you’re an IALD certified instructor. Tell me about how you decided to pursue that versus just doing LANAP in your office and not teaching others to pay a forward?

YM: You know, I tend to always want a fully indulge in what I’m learning! I went through BootCamp and training, and I still had so many questions. I was so enthralled by the study of this whole aspect of wound healing and the laser – I think it’s just part of my personality to want to teach. I just knew that this would catch on like wildfire and just become so popular. I wanted to be part of that ability to make sure that patients were getting the right kind of treatment and management, and not having your teeth removed when it really wasn’t necessary and something could be done for them. So it was a combination of things that made me want to be an instructor.

MK: Okay. Going back to your practice and the patients that you treat. I understand that you have a wide range of ages of your perio patients. The traditional perio patient that most people think of is probably an aging patient or advancing in years, but I understand you also are treating quite a few younger patients. Can you tell me some more about that?

YM: Yes. Well, I’m part of a group where we have a general dentist and oral surgeon and then myself and the hygienists. We market directly to the public, so we do get a wider range of patients. I’m not a referral-based practice, so we’ll get, you know, the younger person that is early on in their periodontal disease or the aggressive periodontists. I do get referrals, and I will get referrals for patients with Stage 4, Type C, which was once known as J. Perio. So I’ve seen a fair amount. I’ve taken a lot of patients under my wing that have that diagnosis in their twenties/thirties. The youngest patient I think I’ve had was 12 or 13 with the first molar, you know, vertical bone loss…

MK: Now are these candidates for full-mouth LANAP?

YM: Well, they are, based on the protocol. Some of them do have just the isolated lesions around the molars, but I will still adhere to the protocol and treat each site appropriately as it presents. Then I’ll get some that are just generalized, aggressive perio. I’m thinking of one case now, she’s in her thirties with severe loss of bone support, so it varies. I have a wide range when it comes to that diagnosis, either isolated or generalized. You know, the psychological impact of losing your teeth…it’s hard at any age, but at a young age it’s particularly devastating. If there’s anything that we can do to allow a patient to hold onto their teeth that much longer, I think from a psychological aspect it’s really important – even though you know those teeth may not last a lifetime. If you could give them some more time with their own teeth, it really makes a difference.

MK: You mentioned earlier you practice in the south side of Chicago, which is predominantly African American. Is this something that is tied to that population that you see a lot? Would you say?

YM: Yes, yes, definitely. I went to Howard University Dental School, and some of the research that was done early on did show this genetic a link of African Americans having a higher incidence and prevalence of  J perio, so it’s definitely been shown that that gene is present in the African American community in greater numbers than the non-African American patients. Yeah, I see a lot of that.

MK: Well, very good. I want to thank you for sharing your your story with us. You’re, as I mentioned, an instructor for the IALD, and it’s always a pleasure to have you as one of our trainers, so thank you for your service!

YM: Oh, thank you. It’s always a pleasure.

MK: If anyone out there would like more information on Dr McCullom and her practice, the website is Again, thank you so much for joining us today.

YM: Thank you for having me! Take care.

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