Dentistry is the known evaluation, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of 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. Other people aiding in oral health service include dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental technicians, and dental therapists.
Dentistry is that branch of medicine which deals with the study and practice of diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases of the mouth, the maxilla, and the face.
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, x-rays, and devices for home or in-office use. Many oral diseases (such as bilateral odontogenic keratocysts) and abnormalities (such as several unerupted teeth) 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), fluoride, 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 or other forms of tooth decay. Recognized but less conventional preventive agents include xylitol, which is bacteriostatic, casein derivatives, and proprietary products such as Cavistat BasicMints.
Education and licensing
The first dental school, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery opened in Baltimore, Maryland in 1840, and in 1867, Harvard Dental School became the second dental school affiliated with a university.
Studies showed that dentists graduated from different countries, or even from different dental schools in one country, may have different clinical decisions for the same clinical condition. For example, dentists graduated from Israeli dental schools may recommend more often for the removal of asymptomatic impacted third molar (wisdom teeth) than dentists graduated from Latin-American or Eastern European dental schools.
In England, the 1878 British Dentists Act and 1879 Dentists Register limited the title of “dentist” and “dental surgeon” to qualified and registered practitioners. The practice of dentistry in the United Kingdom became fully regulated with the 1921 Dentists Act, which required the registration of anyone practicing dentistry. The British Dental Association, formed in 1880 with Sir John Tomes as president, played a major role in prosecuting dentists practicing illegally. A dentist is a healthcare professional qualified to practice dentistry after graduating with a degree of either Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), Bachelor of Dentistry (BDent), Bachelor of Dental Science (BDSc), or Bachelor of Dental Surgery/Chirurgiae (BDS) or (BChD) or equivalent. In most western countries, to become a qualified dentist one must usually complete at least 4 years of postgraduate study; within the European Union the education has to be at least 5 years. Dentists usually complete between 5–8 years of post secondary education before practicing. Though not mandatory, many dentists choose to complete an internship or residency focusing on specific aspects of dental care after they have received their dental degree. It is important for dentist to ensure that they have a good dental insurance policy.
In addition to general dentistry, there are about 9 recognized dental specialties in the US, Canada, and Australia. 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).
- Dental public health (study of dental epidemiology and social health policies),
- Endodontics (root canal therapy and study of diseases of the dental pulp),
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (study, diagnosis, and sometimes the treatment of oral and maxillofacial related diseases),
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology (study and radiologic interpretation of oral and maxillofacial diseases),
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (extractions, implants, and facial surgery),
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics (straightening of teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth),
- Periodontics (study and treatment of diseases of the periodontium (non-surgical and surgical), and placement and maintenance of dental implants),
- Pediatric dentistry (i.e. 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.)
Specialists in these fields are designated registrable (U.S. “Board Eligible”) and warrant exclusive titles such as orthodontist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, endodontist, pediatric dentist, periodontist, or prosthodontist upon satisfying certain local (U.S. “Board Certified”), (Australia/NZ: “FRACDS”), or (Canada: “FRCD(C)”) registry requirements.
The American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) provides board-certification examinations annually for qualified dentists. These dentists collaborate with sleep physicians at accredited sleep centers and can provide oral appliance therapy and upper airway surgery to treat sleep-related breathing disorders. While Diplomate status granted by the ABDSM is not one of the recognized dental specialties, it is recognized by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
A few other post-graduate formal advanced education programs: GPR, GDR, MTP residencies (advanced clinical and didactic training with intense hospital experience) and AEGD, SEGD, and GradDipClinDent programs (advanced training in clinical dentistry) are recognized but do not lead to specialization.
Other dental education exists where no postgraduate formal university training is required: cosmetic dentistry, dental implant, temporo-mandibular joint therapy. These usually require the attendance of one or more continuing education courses that typically last for one to several days. There are restrictions on allowing these dentists to call themselves specialists in these fields. The specialist titles are registrable titles and controlled by the local dental licensing bodies.
- Dental anesthesiology, the study of how to relieve pain through advanced use of local and general anesthesia techniques is not yet considered to be one of the recognized dental specialties. However, CODA is in the process of accrediting all dental anesthesiology programs.
- Special needs dentistry is dentistry for those with developmental and acquired disabilities. It is a recognized specialty by the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons. It has also been recently recognised as a specialty by the General Dental Council in the United Kingdom. The American Board of Special Care Dentistry is hoping to also obtain accreditation for special needs dentistry by CODA.
- 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 is the delivery of dental care to older adults involving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of problems associated with normal ageing and age-related diseases as part of an interdisciplinary team with other health care professionals.
- Veterinary dentistry, a speciality of veterinary medicine, is the field of dentistry applied to the care of animals.
- Aviation dentistry, a subcategory of (military) aviation medicine deals with dental topics related to aircrews, e.g., dental barotrauma and barodontalgia. In addition, the aircrew population is a unique high-risk group to several diseases and harmful conditions due to irregular work shifts with irregular self-oral care habits and irregular meals (usually carbonated drinks and high energy snacks) and work-related stress.