Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity. Generally a dental degree prepares you to perform most of the dental treatments. However, often when treatments are too complex, a dental specialist is preferred since they have much more experience and training in one specific dental field. There are currently nine dental specialities recognized by American Dental Association:
1. DENTAL PUBLIC HEALTH is the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community efforts. It is that form of dental practice which serves the community as a patient rather than the individual. It is concerned with the dental health education of the public, with applied dental research, and with the administration of group dental care programs as well as the prevention and control of dental diseases on a community basis. (ADA, Adopted May 1976)
Public health dentistry is practiced generally through governmentally sponsored programs, which are for the most part directed toward public-school children in the belief that their education in oral hygiene is the best way to reach the general public. On a larger scale, public health dentistry has been concerned with the improvement of oral health in large populations such as treatment of drinking water with fluoride.
2. ORAL and MAXILLOFACIAL RADIOLOGY is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of radiology concerned with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by all modalities of radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region. (ADA, Adopted April 2001)
Radiologists use a variety of imaging techniques such as X-ray radiography, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose or treat diseases. Interventional radiology is the performance of (usually minimally invasive) medical procedures with the guidance of imaging technologies.
3. ENDODONTICS is the branch of dentistry which is concerned with the morphology, physiology and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues. Its study and practice encompass the basic and clinical sciences including biology of the normal pulp, the aetiology, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions. (ADA, Adopted December 1983)
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.
4. ORAL PATHOLOGY is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of pathology that deals with the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. It is a science that investigates the causes, processes, and effects of these diseases. The practice of oral pathology includes research and diagnosis of diseases using clinical, radiographic, microscopic, biochemical, or other examinations. (ADA, Adopted May 1991)
Dental pathology can also refer to the predicted or actual progression of particular oral diseases such as cancer. As a field of general inquiry and research, pathology addresses four components of disease:
2. Mechanisms of development (pathogenesis).
3. Structural alterations of cells (morphologic changes).
4. Consequences of changes (clinical manifestations). In common dental practice, pathology is mostly concerned with analyzing known clinical abnormalities that are markers or precursors for both infectious and non-infectious dental diseases.
5. ORAL and MAXILLOFACIAL SURGERY is the specialty of dentistry which includes the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries and defects involving both the functional and aesthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. (ADA, Adopted October 1990)
Depending upon the jurisdiction, surgeons may require training in dentistry, surgery, and general medicine; training and qualification in medicine may be undertaken optionally even if not required.
Treatments may include:
– Dentoalveolar surgery
– Surgery to insert osseointegrated implants for attaching craniofacial prostheses and bone anchored hearing aids.
– Cosmetic surgery of the head and neck.
– Surgery of benign and malignant pathology (cysts, tumors).
– Treatment of congenital craniofacial malformations such as cleft lip.
– Chronic facial pain and Temporomandibular disorders.
6. ORTHODONTICS and DENTOFACIAL ORTHOPEDICS is the dental specialty that includes the diagnosis, prevention, interception, and correction of malocclusion, as well as neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities of the developing or mature orofacial structures. (ADA, Adopted April 2003)
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.
For comprehensive orthodontic treatment, metal wires are inserted into orthodontic brackets (braces), which can be made from stainless steel or a more aesthetic ceramic material. The wires interact with the brackets to move teeth into the desired positions.
7. PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY (formerly Pedodontics) an age-defined specialty that provides both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs. (ADA, Adopted 1995)
Pediatric dentists promote the dental health of children as well as serve as educational resources for parents. It is recommended that a dental visit should occur within six months after the presence of the first tooth or by a child’s first birthday.
8. PERIODONTICS is that specialty of dentistry which encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth or their substitutes and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. (ADA, Adopted December 1992)
The supporting tissues are known as the periodontium, which includes the gingiva (gums), alveolar bone, cementum, and the periodontal ligament.
Periodontology treats periodontal disease and also involves the placement and maintenance of dental implants, including the treatment of peri-implantitis which is inflammatory bone loss around dental implants. The etiology of peri-implantitis is thought to be very similar to periodontal disease.
9. PROSTODONTICS is 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. (ADA, Adopted April 2003)
Prosthodontist is a dentist who:
1. Specializes in the aesthetic (cosmetic) restoration and replacement of teeth.
2. Receives three to four years of additional training after dental school.
3. Restores optimum appearance and function to your smile. The treatment planning and restoration of implants, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and rehabilitation of occlusion with prostheses.