A dentist, also known as a 'dental surgeon', is a health care
practitioner that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and
treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity. The
dentist's supporting team aides in providing oral health
services. The dental team includes dental assistants, dental
hygienists, dental technicians, and in some states, dental
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 most dental schools require at least a bachelors degree, a
few schools may consider admitting exceptional students after
only 3 years of college. 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, 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. 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. Additionally, dentists participate in
continuing education where they attend lectures to learn of
recent developments, practice new methods, and earn continuing
education hours. There are specific requirements for dentists to
attend continuing education hours, and dentists who accumulate
additional training are better prepared to handle a variety of
cases and surprises during treatment. In the UK the training is
similar except it is generally a five year undergraduate course
leading to a BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery).
An independent suburban dentist
By nature of their general training, a licensed dentist can
carry out most dental treatments such as restorative (dental
restorations, crowns, bridges), orthodontics (braces),
prosthetic (dentures), endodontic (root canal) therapy,
periodontal (gum) therapy, and exodontia (extraction of teeth),
as well as performing examinations, taking radiographs (x-rays)
and diagnosis. Additionally, dentists are allowed to engage in
oral surgery when performing invasive procedures such as dental
implant placement. Dentists can also prescribe medications such
as antibiotics, fluorides, pain killers, local anesthetics,
sedatives/hypnotics and any other medication that serve in the
treatment of the various conditions that arise in the head and
Dentists need to take additional qualifications or training to
carry out more complex procedures such as General anesthesia,
oral and maxillofacial surgery, and implants. While many oral
diseases are unique and self-limiting, poor conditions in the
oral cavity can lead to poor general health and vice versa.
Conditions in the oral cavity may be indicative of systemic
diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, AIDS, different blood
diseases (including malignancies) etc.
Dental public health - The study of dental epidemiology and
social health policies.
Endodontics - Root canal therapy and study of diseases of the
Oral and maxillofacial pathology - The study, diagnosis, and
sometimes the treatment of oral and maxillofacial related
Oral and maxillofacial radiology - The study and radiologic
interpretation of oral and maxillofacial diseases.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery - Extractions, implants, and
MaxilloFacial surgery which also includes correction of
congenital facial deformities.
Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopaedics - The straightening of
teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth.
Periodontology (periodontics) - Study and treatment of diseases
of the gums (non-surgical and surgical) as well as placement and
maintenance of dental implants
Pediatric dentistry (formerly pedodontics) - Dentistry for
Prosthodontics - Dentures, bridges and the restoration of
implants. Some prosthodontists further their training in "oral
and maxillofacial prosthodontics", which is the discipline
concerned with the replacement of missing facial structures,
such as ears, eyes, noses, etc.
Specialists in these fields are designated "registrable" (in the
United States, "board eligible") and warrant exclusive titles
such as orthodontist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon,
endodontist, pediatric dentist, periodontist, or prosthodontist
upon satisfying certain local accreditation requirements (U.S.,