History of Periodontics at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry

Dr. Fraleigh.jpgPeriodontics was added to the curriculum in the 1920s and originally was taught by faculty in the Department of “Clinical Pathology, Therapeutics and Periodontia”.  The Department of Periodontics was formed at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry in 1966, and Dr. C. Mahlon Fraleigh (shown to the left), previously Chair of the Department of Periodontics at West Virginia and retired Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, was appointed as its new Chair. His leadership set a vision for the future of Periodontics at Iowa that encompassed excellence in education and patient care, research and service to the profession. 

Lainson_Phil.jpgSoon after his arrival, Dr. Fraleigh began the residency program in Periodontics, and its first two graduates in 1968 were Dr. Phillip Lainson (shown to the right) and Dr. Jorge Zermeno from San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Dr. Zermeno returned to Mexico and has been a national leader there in the specialty.  Dr. Lainson remained full-time on the Iowa faculty and in 1976 became Department Chair.

By the late 1970’s the department included an established a group of faculty members with clinical and research backgrounds, including Drs. Paul Collins, William Grigsby, Benny Hawkins, Lainson, Charles Sabiston and William Rubright. Predoctoral and postdoctoral education focused on the control of local and systemic etiological factors and a resective surgical approach. Departmental research included studies of periodontal pathogens directed by Drs. Sabiston and Grigsby, and white lesions and early cancer detection in the oral cavity directed by Dr. Rubright. 

Under Dr. Lainson’s leadership (1976-1998), the curricula of the predoctoral and postdoctoral programs were expanded using more evidence-based knowledge of Periodontics. The residency program was expanded in the 90’s to include more content on regenerative and mucogingival surgery, dental implant surgery and conscious sedation, and the program duration was lengthened from two to three years.  Research by faculty members during this era expanded to include studies on the effects of tobacco on oral mucosa (Dr. Georgia Johnson), local antimicrobial delivery (Drs. Lainson, Johnson, Janet Guthmiller, and Ms. Nancy Slach), antimicrobial properties of naturally occurring agents (Dr. Christine Wu-Yuan) and retrospective studies of periodontal therapy (Drs. James Spivey and Lainson).  When Dr. Lainson stepped down in 1998, Dr. Georgia Johnson became the Department Chair and remained in that position until 2017 when she stepped down and returned to the faculty.  After a national search, Dr. Gustavo Avila-Ortiz was named Department Chair in 2017.

The late 1990’s and 2000’s ushered an evolution in the understanding of individual patient periodontal disease susceptibility, interactions between oral and systemic inflammation, and an increased comprehension of the molecular basis for tissue regeneration.  This was accompanied by advances in surgical techniques for soft and hard tissue regeneration and dental implant therapy which translated to enhanced biologic and esthetic patient care outcomes.   Departmental research included studies of the role of defensins in oral immunity (Drs. Guthmiller, Brogden and Johnson), collaborations on implant trials (Drs. Gustavo Avila-Ortiz, Steve Clark, Satheesh Elangovan, Ali Fakhry, Johnson, Glenn Maze, Kumar Nepalli and Paula Weistroffer), interprofessional educational research (Dr. Weistroffer) and smoking cessation studies (Ms. Nancy Slach).  

Over the last decade, faculty members have received national and international recognition and awards for the development of novel delivery systems for growth factors in bone regeneration (Dr. Satheesh Elangovan) and clinical trials on implant site development and management of the extraction site (Drs. Avila-Ortiz and Theodoros Katsaros). Additional new research directions are aimed at a personalized medicine approach in cancer therapy (Dr. Brogden) and the modulation of inflammation in the pathogenesis of periodontitis (Drs. Shaoping Zhang and Megumi Williamson). Over the last five years, faculty members have contributed over 100 scientific articles to the literature, including editorship (Dr. Elangovan) of Carranza’s Clinical Periodontology, 13th edition, which is the most highly utilized textbook in periodontal education globally.

The Advanced Education Program in Periodontics, which has over 150 graduates to date, has become one of the most highly respected in the United States.  As of 2019, nearly 80% of periodontists in private practice across the state are graduates of our program.  Since 2012, all of the graduate who have taken the American Board of Periodontology examination have successfully become Diplomates.  In 2012, the Visiting Scholar Program was established with the goal of offering a focused exposure to the specialty of Periodontics and also the field of Oral Implantology to dentists, and it has increased the global diversity and recognition of our Department.

The support of multiple adjunct and visiting faculty members (currently, Drs. Leandro Chambrone, Pablo Galindo-Moreno, Oscar Gonzalez-Martin, Michael Franzman, Derek Borgwardt, Truman Johnson, Ann Romanowski, Sarah Rinehart and Marian Antonious) has provided a valuable perspective in our predoctoral and postdoctoral programs.   Faculty members continue to shape the future of the profession through leadership and contributions in multiple national and international professional organizations and scientific workshops, including the American Board of Periodontology, American Academy of Periodontology, the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation, Academy of Osseointegration and the Osteology Foundation, as well as through contributions to multiple regional and state committees.  With the outstanding expertise of our staff, our clinicians provide state of the art dental care in collaboration with other world class clinicians in all dental disciplines.

Department Executive Officers (Chair)
Dr. C. Mahlon Fraleigh 1966-1976
Dr. Phillip A. Lainson 1976-1998
Dr. Georgia K. Johnson 1998-2017
Dr. Kim A. Brogden (Interim) 2017
Dr. Gustavo Avila-Ortiz 2017-present

Postdoctoral Program Directors
Dr. C. Mahlon Fraleigh 1966-1976
Dr. Phillip A. Lainson 1976-1978
Dr. Benny F. Hawkins 1978-1995
Dr. Georgia K. Johnson 1995-1998
Dr. Phillip A. Lainson 1998-2001
Dr. Glenn I. Maze 2001-2006
Dr. Lewis A Humbert 2006-2016
Dr. Gustavo Avila-Ortiz 2016-2018
Dr. Theodoros G. Katsaros 2018-2020
Dr. Sukirth Ganesan 2020-Present