Dentistry is the medical field devoted to the art and science of maintaining the health of soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity. Dentistry is not just about filling teeth! Dental procedures are becoming much more sophisticated and involve advancing technology to prevent, diagnose and/or treat periodontal disease, caries, malocclusion and oral-facial abnormalities. Dentists also have the responsibility of detecting head and neck cancer and other mucosal diseases. In addition, more and more research is discovering that there is a strong link between oral and systemic health. Dentists are the directors of the dental health care team which include dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental laboratory technicians. These dental professionals work together to develop and complete individualized and comprehensive treatment plans for each patient.
Dentists are usually graduates of colleges or universities with bachelor’s degrees. They study an additional three to four years in dental school, earning either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree upon graduation. Dentists become licensed to practice dentistry in a particular state following a demonstration of their competency through an examination. Completion of a residency program is not necessary to perform all areas of dentistry. In fact, about 80% of dental school graduates become general dentists. A dentist can chose to specialize in a certain field which requires additional training beyond dental school. The length of time required to complete a dental specialty residency program varies among institution, program and specialty. The dental specialties are:
- Dental Public Health
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
- Pediatric Dentistry