Dental care is medical care and hygiene relating to your teeth or “Dentistry”. Dentistry is also known as dental medicine and oral medicine. The term for the associated scientific study of teeth is called odontology which is the study of the structure, development, and abnormalities of the teeth. Dentistry is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions, disorders, and diseases of the teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw. By nature of their general training, dentists can carry out the majority of dental treatments such as restorative (fillings, crowns, bridges), prosthetic (dentures), endodontic (root canal) therapy, periodontal (gum) therapy, and extraction of teeth, as well as performing examinations, radiographs (x-rays), and diagnosis. Dentists can also prescribe medications such as antibiotics, sedatives, and any other drugs used in patient management. The dentist’s supporting team – which includes dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental technicians, and dental therapist aids in providing oral health services. Specializations in dentistry is available in the fields of Anesthesiology, Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Oral Radiology, Oral Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral Medicine, Orofacial Pain, Pathology, Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics. Listed below are various dental specialties:
- Cosmetic dentistry– Focuses on improving the appearance of the mouth, teeth, and smile.
- Anesthesiology – The specialty of dentistry that deals with the advanced use of general anesthesia, sedation, and pain management to facilitate dental procedures.
- Dental public health – The study of epidemiology and social health policies relevant to oral health.
- Endodontics (also called endodontology) – Root canal therapy and study of diseases of the dental pulp and periapical tissues.
- Forensic odontology – 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 – 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.
- 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 (oral surgery) Extractions, implants, and surgery of the jaws, mouth and face
- Oral biology – Research in dental and craniofacial biology
- Oral Implantology – The art and science of replacing extracted teeth with dental implants.
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics – The straightening of teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth.
- Pediatric dentistry (also called pedodontics) – Dentistry for children
- Periodontology (also called periodontics) – The study and treatment of diseases of the periodontium (non-surgical and surgical) as well as placement and maintenance of dental implants
- Prosthodontics (also called prosthetic dentistry) – Dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants. Some prosthodontists super-specialize in Maxillofacial Prosthetics, which is the discipline originally concerned with the rehabilitation of patients with congenital facial and oral defects such as cleft lip and palate or patients born with an underdeveloped ear (microtia). Today, most Maxillofacial Prosthodontists return function and esthetics to patients with acquired defects secondary to surgical removal of head and neck tumors, or secondary to trauma from war or motor vehicle accidents.
- Special needs dentistry (also called special care dentistry) – Dentistry for those with developmental and acquired disabilities.
- Sports dentistry – the branch of sports medicine dealing with prevention and treatment of dental injuries and oral diseases associated with sports and exercise. The sports dentist works as an individual consultant or as a member of the Sports Medicine Team.
Dentistry is important in maintaining a beautiful smile and the overall health of your body. Children, teens, and adults should all see the dentist for a regular checkup at least once every six months. People who are at a greater risk for oral cancer or gum disease may be required to see the dentist more than just twice a year. Oral infections and inflammations may affect overall health and conditions in the oral cavity may be indicative of systemic diseases, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, celiac disease or cancer. Many studies have also shown that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and preterm birth. The concept that oral health can affect systemic health and disease is referred to as “oral-systemic health”. Unaddressed tooth decay or gum disease can lead to infections, loss of teeth, yellowing of the teeth, bad breath, tooth damage, and other conditions that can put your entire body at risk for health issues. Regular dental care can prevent much of this damage, and existing damage can usually be repaired. Even if you have let dental problems develop over time, it is never too late to see a dental health professional for corrective procedures. Good oral health practices and regular visits to dental health professionals will help you enjoy the benefits of a bright smile and a pain-free mouth.
Obtaining a doctor’s education as a Dental Physician requires a four-year undergraduate degree, then four years of medical school, and a five-year residency program. After the residency program is completed, a small group of the best candidates are selected from each medical program to participate in a fellowship training program. Fellowship training is a privilege that only top doctoral candidates are chosen to participate in to become a specialist or experts in their chosen field of medicine or surgery. Fellowship training is part of the process of becoming a specialist physician and requires an additional year or two of education. During fellowship training, a physician goes through rigorous training to become an expert in their subspecialty. The fellowship training program consists of practical experience which includes participation in numerous specialized surgeries which provides significant work experience the physician needs to become a specialist in his/her chosen field to receive their credentials. Physician’s that choose this path are committing to extra education and are devoted to providing the best medical care possible to patients. A Board-certified doctor indicates that a physician has achieved the highest level of accreditation within a given specialty. Board certification is a voluntary, additional step that a physician chooses to prove that they are trained in the latest technology and advancements in their specialty. Physicians are required to successfully pass written and oral board examinations in their specific specialty to verify knowledge, competency, and expertise in their specialty and/or subspecialty of medical practice. Most boards require that physicians recertify throughout their careers to ensure and promote ongoing professional development, practice assessment, and improvement. Choosing the right Dental physician depends on your needs. Always consider a candidate’s overall qualifications, experience, services offered, and patient satisfaction when choosing a physician. Always check for all necessary board-certified training and degrees, up to date certifications through an accredited healthcare institution and a valid license to practice through the respective state of Dentistry or state/international medical board in their state or country. Look for a Dental physician who has completed an accredited fellowship in a sub-specialty related to your condition or the surgery you have elected. Accreditation information, including fellowships and board certifications can usually be found on a physician’s official online profile. If it’s not, make sure that you request this information. When you, a family member, or friend needs a medical treatment, you want to make sure that you choose a highly qualified doctor who is dedicated to providing outstanding care.