Dentistry is the branch of health care devoted to maintaining the health of the teeth, gums, and other tissues in and around the mouth.
What does a dentist do?
Dentists are doctors whose work focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating oral diseases and conditions. In addition to preventing and treating tooth decay and gum disease, dentists play a key role in the early detection of oral cancer, as well as other health conditions and illnesses that sometimes show up in the mouth before they are identified in other parts of the body.
A dentist may do some of the following job duties:
- Evaluate the overall health of their patients while educating them about oral health and disease prevention.
- Perform clinical procedures, such as exams, fillings, crowns, implants, extractions, and corrective surgeries.
- Identify, diagnose, and treat oral conditions.
- Administer anesthetics to keep patients from feeling pain during procedures.
- Prescribe antibiotics or other medications.
- Examine x-rays of teeth, gums, the jaw, and nearby areas to diagnose problems.
What are the different dental specialties?
Most dentists are general practitioners; however, with continued education, dentists can go on to become one of the following types of specialists:
- Dental anesthesiologist: administer drugs (anesthetics) to reduce or eliminate pain during a dental procedure, monitor sedated patients to keep them safe, and help patients manage pain afterward.
- Dental public health specialist: promote good dental health and the prevention of dental diseases in specific communities.
- Endodontist: perform root canal therapy, removing the nerves and blood supply from injured or infected teeth.
- Oral and maxillofacial radiologist: diagnose diseases in the head and neck using imaging technologies.
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeon: operate on the mouth, jaws, teeth, gums, neck, and head, performing procedures such as surgically repairing a cleft lip and palate or removing damaged teeth.
- Oral pathologist: diagnose conditions in the mouth, such as bumps or ulcers, and oral diseases, such as cancer.
- Orthodontist: straighten teeth by applying pressure to the teeth with braces or other appliances.
- Pediatric dentist: focus on dentistry for children and special-needs patients.
- Periodontist: treat the gums and bones supporting the teeth.
What other types of dentistry occupations are there?
Aside from becoming a dentist, there are other exciting career options in the field of dentistry. For example:
- Dental Laboratory Technician and Medical Appliance Technician: make or repair dentures, braces, and related products.
- Dental Assistant: provide patient care, take x-rays, keep records, and schedule appointments.
- Dental Hygienist: examine patients for signs of oral diseases, such as gingivitis, and provide preventive care, including cleaning teeth.
Where do dentists work?
Many dentists work in an office setting where they have their own practice, or work for an established dental practice. Others may work for the government, outpatient care centers, and physician’s offices.
Explore the exciting profession of dentistry more by checking out the resources. You may also want to gain hands-on experience by participating in a dentistry pathway program. Find pathway programs by clicking below.
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List of resources
National Dental Association – National organization for Black dentists and oral health field professionals and students