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Dentistry

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Dentistry is the identification, treatment, and prevention of diseases, conditions, and irregularities in the mouth. Dentists are doctors specialized in dealing with the mouth and must go through specific training at a 4 year dental school. Dentistry is necessary for the overall health of humans for several reasons. There are many specializations of dentistry that deal with specific areas of treatments or study. There are a large amount of procedures performed by dentists used to treat many different conditions.[1]

Dentists identify problems with teeth and provide treatment and instructions on how to care for patients' teeth. There are many procedures dentists perform to treat diseases and care for patient's teeth. A common procedure practiced by dentists is filling cavities because it is a common problem. Most dentists are not specialists, rather they are general practitioners, performing a variety of tasks involving dental care. The vast majority of dentists open their own clinics and become solo practitioners, owning their own business and/or employing a small staff.[2] Dentists work with an array of equipment such as: X-ray machines, drills, mirrors, and brushes.

Specialties

A pediatric dentist performing a procedure on a child.

There are three major types of dentistry: general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics.

  • General Dentistry involves procedures and treatments for general dental problems rather than specialize in any specific area. Cleanings and cavity fillings are very common.
  • Cosmetic Dentistry is the field of dentistry which performs procedures on patients who wish to improve the appearance of their teeth or smile.
  • Orthodontics is the field of dentistry involving the correction or prevention of tooth irregularity or straightening teeth. It is the most commonly practiced specialization of dentistry. Dentists specializing in orthodontics often use braces to correct misalignments but this is not the only dental problem orthodontists treat.
  • Endodontics specializes in treating the soft tissue inside the tooth known as dental pulp. Endodontists perform procedures like root canal therapy.
  • Public Dental Health is an area of studying dental epidemiology and health policies. Dentists specializing in this area identify public dental health concerns and how to improve it.
  • Prosthodontics involves repairs or replacements for missing and broken teeth. The insertion of dentures and bridges are utilized by dentists in this field.
  • Pediatric dentistry is the dental treatment of children. Dentists in this field perform procedures on young children.

Procedures

A silver tooth filling.

There are a wide variety of dental procedures performed for an array of purposes. One very common procedure is to apply braces to straighten and align teeth. This is performed by orthodontists. [3] White teeth are very desirable, so procedures to whiten teeth are popular but increased tooth sensitivity and gum irritation are side effects.[4] When a patient is missing a tooth, a dentist can put a bridge in place to fill the empty space. It is comprised of three parts which are attached to the adjacent teeth.[5] When a patient has many missing teeth, a dentist can have dentures made for them to function as teeth. Dentures are usually made up of an acrylic resin and vary in how many teeth they replace.[6] Fillings are required for patients who's teeth have undergone decay. Fillings can be made of two different compositions the first being a combination of mercury, silver, tin, and ore, the second being a composite resin resembling the color of teeth.[7] Root canal therapy is a treatment performed by an endodontist (dentists who specialize in dental pulp; the tissue within the tooth such as blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue). When the dental pulp within the tooth becomes infected it is necessary to repair them. Repair of the dental pulp involves removing the top of the tooth, cleaning the dental pulp of bacteria, and filling the space to prevent growth of any new bacteria.[8] A procedure to help prevent tooth decay, sealants are very thin plastic cover applied to molars and premolars, preventing bacteria from coming into contact with the teeth.[9] Another procedure performed by dentists is the removal of wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are the third molars and are too large to fit in many people's mouths and so must be extracted. To remove the wisdom teeth, the connective tissue must be detached and the tooth must be extracted.[10]

Dentist

A dental clinic.
Main Article: Dentist

To become a dentist one must first attend a dental school to obtain a degree before being able to apply for a dental license. Without this license, you cannot work as a dentist in America. Additionally, one must have a high degree of scientific ability, manual dexterity, and a good memory.[11]

Education

Dental schools require at least 2 years of pre-dental college education before students can be accepted. In addition to the previous requirement, all applicants must take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT).[12] Scores on the DAT plays a large role in deciding who is admitted into these schools and who is rejected, but it is not the only factor. Grade point averages and other information is also considered by dental schools.[13]Dental school most commonly lasts four years with the final half of that time being spent in dental clinics treating patients while being supervised by licensed dentists. Graduates are most commonly awarded the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery but there are others.[14]

Licensing

A dental license is required before one can become a practicing dentist in any state. States require passing examinations and a degree from dental schools in order to obtain a dental license. The license would allow one to practice general dentistry or a specialized field of dentistry.[15]

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References

  • Dentists Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition.
  • Dental Care Shawn Watson, About.com, The New York Times Company.
  • Dental Procedures University of Virginia Health System