History of the Board

1930-1939: The Specialty Takes Shape and Certification Emerges

In his 1937 presidential address to the Academy, Dr. Edward B. Spalding urged that a special committee of five members be appointed to work on the issue of specialization and certification as it applied to periodontia. And on July 14, 1939, his recommendation two years earlier bore fruit and the American Academy of Periodontology formally organized the American Board of Periodontology.

1940-1949: The ABP Becomes the Recognized Certifying Board for Periodontists

The 1940s closed on a high note for the Board when, in 1949, the House of Delegates of the ADA recognized the American Board of Periodontology as the official specialty board for the certification of periodontists. Only one other board was recognized earlier, the board for oral surgery.

1950-1959: The Examination Process Evolves

In its February 1953 meeting, the Board decided on implementing a practical examination for those candidates whose case reports were accepted and who had passed the written portion. As Dr. Harold J. Leonard, secretary of the board at the time, explained in the Journal of Periodontology, “It has ...become apparent to the Board that the eight case reports plus the written examination and the oral interview and examination before the Board are not enough to screen out those who are mentally agile but manually and technically unfit. The ‘heavy handed that butcher their patients,’ or those so slow as to require twenty or more hours to do the work of three, may not be detected by these tests.”

1960-1969: Written Examination Introduced

The first written examination was scheduled for October 22, 1968, at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, and 58 candidates were examined. “By allowing individuals to take the written portion right after finishing their training, we saw a tremendous increase in the numbers,” says Dr. Cohen. He also notes that in the 1950 and 1960 there were actually very few periodontists and those few were swamped with work. “This made it difficult for them to make time for taking the boards.”

1970-1979: Applicants Soar and the Board Reorganizes

The ABP had high hopes for the recent division of the certifying examination into three parts. In his January 26, 1970, report to the Executive Council of the AAP, Dr. Henry M. Swenson, Secretary-Treasurer of the ABP, wrote: “It is anticipated that the number of diplomates certified in 1972 will double those certified this year.”

1980-2002: The First 50 Years Draw to a Close...and the Board Enters The 21st Century

As the American Board of Periodontology approached the anniversary of its first 50 years in 1989, and moved toward the 21st Century, it became increasingly apparent that increasing the numbers of certified periodontists needed to be intensified and yet, while desired, success in those efforts would stretch the Board’s resources—human and financial.

2003-2013: A decade of major changes for the ABP

During this decade the Board instituted several major changes and innovations. An effort was instituted to encourage Board Certification, primarily through making the examination process more accessible to candidates. The Qualifying Examination was moved from a one location classroom setting to the exam being administered at regional testing centers. The methodology of administering the oral examination was changed by eliminating cases submitted by candidates to examining with protocols developed by the Board. Recertification also underwent major changes by extending the recertification period from three to six years and by initiating the Self-Study Recertification Program (SSRP). Jerry Bowers retired as Executive Director with Kent Palcanis being named ED in 2008.


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