What Is a Dentist?
are health care professionals who specialize in oral health and hygiene. Becoming a dentist requires an undergraduate bachelor’s degree followed by a dental school program which confers either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) title. Additional training may be obtained in subspecialties such as orthodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, dental public health, and oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS), pathology (OMFP), or radiology (OMFR).
Dentists are medically trained in diagnosing, preventing, and treating diseases that affect the teeth, gums, and oral cavity. Common conditions managed by dentists include tooth decay, cavities, tooth fractures, gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis), tooth abscess, malocclusion (misaligned teeth), impacted teeth, fluorosis, oral and tooth trauma, temporomandibular joint disorders, and others. Common procedures include fillings, extractions, scaling and root planing, root canals, placement of crowns, implants, bridges, dentures, braces, and cosmetic procedures like tooth whitening. Dentists also screen for oral cancer and may perform biopsies or diagnostic tests for other chronic or infectious diseases.
Dentists also teach their patients about proper brushing and flossing techniques to help them maintain good oral health and prevent tooth decay and gum disease. General dentistry practitioners work closely together with dental hygienists (who perform cleanings) and dental technicians (who construct restorative dental appliances). Dentists may refer patients to other dental specialists (such as radiologists or surgeons) or doctors for further treatment and care.When Should I See a Dentist?
Contact a dentist for regular checkups for you and your family to ensure the best oral health. Certain signs may indicate an underlying threat to your oral health. You should discuss them with your dentist promptly and not wait until your next checkup. Such symptoms may include:
What Kind of Tests Does a Dentist Perform or Recommend?
- Bleeding gums
- Stained teeth
- Bad breath
- Sensitivity (to cold, sweets, pressure, or other)
- Jaw pain or locked jaw
- Red or swollen gums
- Pus pockets on gums (dental abscess)
- Loose teeth
- Tooth loss (broken or chipped tooth)
- Difficulty eating or chewing
- Dry mouth
- A spot or sore that doesn’t heal
- Mouth trauma
- Poorly fitting dentures or any problem with dental implants
Dental exams are done to evaluate your oral health. Common tests may include:
- Clinical evaluation such as visual examination, palpation, percussion, periodontal probing
- Imaging tests including dental x-rays (periapical, bite-wing, occlusal, or panoramic), CT scans
- Heat and cold test
- Electric pulp test
- Bite stick test
- Dye test
- Light transillumination test
In many cases, a dental impression is taken during the dental exam, which will be used for tooth restoration or replacement with crowns, bridges, implants, partial or complete dentures, as well as for mouthguards or bleaching trays.What Kind of Procedures Does a Dentist Perform?
Depending on their specialization, dentists may perform a wide variety of procedures. In many cases, these are done under one of several types of anesthesia. Examples of procedures include:
What Questions Should I Ask a Dentist?
- Cavity fillings
- Tooth extractions
- Avulsed (knocked out) tooth repair
- Periodontic therapy (such as scaling and root planing, crown lengthening, pocket reduction, and others)
- Endodontic therapy (such as root canals)
- Application of prosthodontics like crowns, implants, bridges, dentures
- Application of orthodontic braces
- Cosmetic procedures like bonding, veneers, or tooth whitening
- Surgical treatment of face, mouth, jaw, and teeth injury
- Surgical treatment of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- Dentoalveolar surgery
You may want to ask these kinds of questions:
- Do I have a dental condition? Does it need treatment?
- What can I expect if I refuse or postpone this treatment?
- What is the difference between the types of treatments I can choose from? >How often should I have regular dental checkups and cleanings?
- How are my other conditions affecting my oral health?
- How can I make my teeth whiter?
- What should I do at home to maintain my oral health?
- Should I use an electric toothbrush?
- What type of toothpaste should I use?
- Should I use mouthwash? What type?
- How can I prevent cavities?
- How can I prevent gum disease?
- How can I reduce the risk of other dental problems?
- How can improve my smile?
- At what age should my child visit a dentist for the first time? How often should my child see a dentist?
- Are baby teeth important? How should I clean them?
- What should I include in my child’s diet for healthier gums and teeth?