Dentistry is the branch of medicine that deals with the study and practice of diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the soft and hard tissues of the jaw (mandible), the oral cavity, maxillofacial area, and the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body. Dentistry is widely considered necessary for complete overall health. Those in the practice of dentistry are known as dentists. Others aiding in oral health service include dental assistants, dental hygienists and dental technicians.
Dentistry usually encompasses very important practices related to the oral cavity. The most common treatments involve the dental surgery on the teeth as a treatment for dental caries. Decayed teeth can be filled with dental amalgam, dental composite, dental porcelain and precious or non-precious metals. Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a more specialized form of dental surgery. Dentists can prescribe medication, radiographs (x-rays), and devices for home or in-office use. Many oral diseases and abnormalities can indicate systemic, neural, or other diseases. Most general practitioners of dentistry perform restorative, prosthetic, endodontic therapy, periodontal therapy, and exodontia, as well as performing examinations. Many general practitioners are comfortable treating complex cases, as well as placing implants and extracting third molars(wisdom teeth). All dentists must achieve a certain degree of skill in various disciplines in order to graduate from dental school and become an accredited dentist.
Dentists also encourage prevention of dental caries through proper hygiene (tooth brushing and flossing) and tooth polishing, although excessive brushing can cause damage to the gums. Dental sealants are plastic materials applied to one or more teeth, for the intended purpose of preventing dental caries (cavities) or other forms of tooth decay.
In addition to general dentistry, there are several dental specialties. To become a specialist requires one to train in a residency or advanced graduate training program. Once residency is completed, the doctor is granted a certificate of specialty training. Many specialty programs have optional or required advanced degrees such as a masters degree: (MS, MSc, MDS, MSD, MDSc, MMSc, or MDent), doctoral degree: (DClinDent, DMSc, or PhD), or medical degree: (MD/MBBS specific to Maxillofacial Surgery and sometimes Oral Medicine).
Following is a list of 9 officially recognized dental specialties with a description of each:
►Dental Public Health. The study of dental epidemiology and social health policies.
►Endodontist. Root canal therapy and study of diseases of the dental pulp.
►Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. The study, diagnosis, and sometimes the treatment of oral and maxillofacial related diseases.
►Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology. The study and radiologic interpretation of oral and maxillofacial diseases.
►Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Extractions, implants, and facial surgery.
►Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics. The straightening of teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth.
►Periodontist. The study and treatment of diseases of the periodontium (non-surgical and surgical), and placement and maintenance of dental implants.
►Pediatric Dentistry. Dentistry for children, formerly known as “pedodontics”.
►Prosthodontics. Dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants. Some prosthodontists further their training in “oral and maxillofacial prosthodontics”–a discipline concerned with the replacement of missing facial structures—such as ears, eyes, nose, etc.
Following is a list of several other emerging dental specialties with a description of each:
►Cosmetic Dentist: The comprehensive oral care that combines art and science to optimally improve dental health, aesthetics and function. In the past, dental fillings and other tooth restorations were made of gold, mercury silver amalgam and other metals—some of which were veneered with porcelain. Now, dental work can be made entirely of porcelain or composite materials that more closely mimic the appearance of natural tooth structure. These tooth colored materials are bonded to the underlying tooth structure with resin adhesives. Unlike mercury silver fillings (amalgams), they are entirely free of mercury. Many dentists offer procedures to be cosmetic and because their patients prefer natural looking teeth.
►Dental Anesthesiologist: The study of how to relieve pain through advanced use of local and general anesthesia techniques.
►Special Needs Dentistry: Dentistry for those with developmental and acquired disabilities.
►Oral Biology: Research in Dental and Craniofacial Biology.
►Forensic Odontology: Consists of the gathering and use of dental evidence in law. This may be performed by any dentist with experience or training in this field. The function of the forensic dentist is primarily documentation and verification of identity.
►Geriatric Dentistry or Geriodontics. The delivery of dental care to older adults involving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of problems associated with normal aging and age-related diseases as part of an interdisciplinary team with other health care professionals.