Career in Dentistry
A dentist, also known as a dental surgeon, is a health care practitioner who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity. The dentist's supporting team aids in providing oral health services. The dental team includes dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental technicians, and in some states, dental therapists
Education in Dentistry
All dentists in the U.S. must graduate from high school and complete required courses such as general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and statistics/calculus. While nearly all dental schools require at least a bachelor's degree (4 years of college coursework), a select few may consider admitting exceptional students after only 3 years of college, although this is very rare. To apply, students must take the Dental Admissions Test. Admission to dental school is competitive, and is generally determined based on factors such as GPA, DAT scores, research, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities. To become a licensed dentist, one must then complete an accredited dental school curriculum and successfully master all clinical competencies and national board exams. Most dental school curricula require four years of training, however, some states require dentists to complete a post graduate residency program as well (e.g. New York). In the U.S., a newly graduated dentist is then awarded the DDS, Doctor of Dental Surgery, degree or the DMD, Doctor of Dental Medicine, degree depending on the dental school attended. The degrees are equivalent. A newly graduated dentist can then pursue further specialty residency training ranging from 2 to 6 years in one of the recognized specialties. Additionally, dentists are required to participate in continuing education where they attend lectures to learn of recent developments, practice new methods, and earn continuing education hours throughout their career.
Outside of a general practice dentist there are dentist's who specialize in certain areas of dentistry such as endodontics or orthodontics. Below we have outlined some of the speciality areas of dentistry.
Endodontics (from the Greek roots endo- "inside" and odont- "tooth") is the dental specialty concerned with the study and treatment of the dental pulp. Endodontists perform a variety of procedures including endodontic therapy (commonly known as "root canal therapy"), endodontic retreatment, surgery, treating cracked teeth, and treating dental trauma. Root canal therapy is one of the most common procedures. If the dental pulp (containing nerves, arterioles, venules, lymphatic tissue, and fibrous tissue) becomes diseased or injured, endodontic treatment is required to save the tooth. Endodontics is recognized as a specialty by many national dental organizations including the American Dental Association, Royal College of Dentists of Canada, Indian Dental Association, and Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons.
In the United States after finishing a dental degree, a dentist must undergo 2-3 additional years of postgraduate training to become an Endodontist. American Dental Association (CODA) accredited programs are a minimum of two years in length. Following successful completion of this training the dentist becomes Board eligible to sit for the American Board of Endodontics examination. Successful completion of board certification results in Diplomate status in the American Board of Endodontics.
Orthodontia, also known as orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, was the first specialty created in the field of dentistry. An orthodontist, specialist in orthodontia, is limited to practice orthodontia only. Whereas general dentists can provide orthodontic treatment along with other treatments for teeth like fillings, cleanings, crowns, etc. Orthodontists are concerned with the study and treatment of malocclusions (improper bites), which may be a result of tooth irregularity and/or disproportionate jaw relationships. Orthodontic treatment can focus on dental displacement only, or can deal with the control and modification of facial growth. In the latter case it is better defined as "dentofacial orthopedics".
In order to be enrolled as a resident an orthodontics program , the dentist must have graduated with a DDS, DMD, BDS or equivalent. Entrance into an accredited orthodontics program is extremely competitive, and generally lasts 2–3 years. Orthodontic residency programs can award the Master of Science degree, or Doctor of Science degree, depending on the individual research requirements. The class size, tuition, stipend and number of patients seen and treated will all depend on the location and setting of the program (hospital vs. university). Each training program has its own goals and treatment philosophy, however, most U.S. orthodontic programs focus on fixed straight wire appliances. All the graduates must also complete the written portion of the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) examinations. In order to become Board Certified, a practicing orthodontist must present six cases that have been treated entirely by the orthodontist to the ABO examiners. The orthodontist then must appear in person in front of a panel of examiners to defend the clinical decisions regarding those cases. Once certified, the certificate is renewed every 10 years, and the practitioner can add the title "Diplomate, American Board of Orthodontics".
Periodontology or Periodontics (from Greek περί peri "around"; and ὀδούς odous "tooth", genitive ὀδόντος odontos) is the specialty of dentistry that studies supporting structures of teeth, as well as diseases and conditions that affect them. The supporting tissues are known as the periodontium, which includes the gingiva (gums), alveolar bone, cementum, and the periodontal ligament. A professional who practices this specialty field of dentistry is known as a periodontist.
The American Dental Association (ADA) accredited programs are a minimum of three years in length. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, U.S.-trained periodontists are specialists in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal diseases and oral inflammation, and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Many periodontists also diagnose and treat oral pathology and periodontics was the historical basis for the specialty of oral medicine. Following successful completion of post-graduate training a periodontist becomes Board eligible for the American Board of Periodontology examination. Successful completion of board certification results in Diplomate status in the American Board of Periodontology.
Pediatric dentistry [formerly pedodontics (American English) or paedodontics (Commonwealth English)] is the branch of dentistry dealing with children from birth through adolescence. The specialties recognized by the American Dental Association, Royal College of Dentists of Canada, and Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons.
Pediatric dentists promote the dental health of children as well as serve as educational resources for parents. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that a dental visit should occur within six months after the presence of the first tooth or by a child's first birthday. The AAPD has said that it is important to establish a comprehensive and accessible ongoing relationship between the dentist and patient – referring to this as the patient's "dental home". This is because early oral examination aids in the detection of the early stages of tooth decay. Early detection is essential to maintain oral health, modify aberrant habits, and treat as needed and as simply as possible. Additionally, parents are given a program of preventative home care (brushing/flossing/fluorides), a caries risk assessment, information on finger, thumb, and pacifier habits, advice on preventing injuries to the mouth and teeth of children, diet counseling, and information on growth and development.
Prosthodontics, also known as dental prosthetics or prosthetic dentistry, is the area of dentistry that focuses on dental prostheses. It is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA), Royal College of Dentists of Canada, and Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons. The ADA defines it as "the dental specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes."
The American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) ensures standards are maintained in the field. Becoming a prosthodontist requires an additional three years of postgraduate specialty training after obtaining a dental degree. Training consists of rigorous clinical and didactic preparation in the basic sciences, head and neck anatomy, biomedical sciences, biomaterial sciences, function of occlusion (bite), TMJ, and treatment planning and experience treating full-mouth reconstruction cases, and esthetics. Due to this extensive training, prosthodontists are required to treat complex cases, full-mouth rehabilitation, TMJ-related disorders, congenital disorders, and sleep apnea by planning and fabricating various prostheses. There are only 3,200 prosthodontists in comparison to 170,000 general dentists in the United States. Prosthodontists have been consistently ranked at 6th or 7th positions by Forbes among America's most competitive and highest salaried jobs.
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