What are Dental Specializations?

Dentistry is a realm of oral care that provides patients with preventative care and specialty procedures.  A general dentist is licensed to perform all types of treatment, but many will stick to the basics due to preference and leave the tedious procedures to the specialists.  Every student who graduates from Dental School will be comfortable performing: root canals, extractions, veneers, crowns, oral screening, cleanings, filling, and gum treatment.  The specialists are there to take care of the difficult circumstances a general dentist may not feel comfortable performing.  

A general dentist is more than capable of performing a root canal, but will most likely refer this procedure out to an Endodontist.  This specialization is focused on the difficult procedures that are caused by immensely damaged or infected nerves inside the tooth.  An Endodontist is trained to replace the infected tissue with gutta percha (material) to further prevent bacteria from further damaging the tooth.  Endodontist residency can be two to three years depending on the school attended. 

Many believe Dentistry is strict to the preservation of teeth, but the gums are just as important, if not more important in some cases towards sustaining a healthy mouth.  A periodontist focuses on the prevention and treatment of gum disease through management of tissues, dental implants, and bone regeneration.  It is important to routinely check on the gums because when left untreated periodontal disease can become significantly damaging to the teeth, gum, and breath.  

Orthodontists is known as the specialty that aligns the teeth, but has adopted dentofacial orthopedics to treat malocclusion.  Malocclusion is the irregular positioning of the teeth and can lead to broken structure or jaw problems.  Orthodontists have different methods of aligning and maintaining straight teeth through braces/Invisalign and the use of retainers following treatment.  This specialty helps patients towards better cosmetic appearance, in addition to a healthier jaw structure.  In most case, three-year residency is required, but some schools offer a two year accelerated programs.  

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a specialization that covers the treatments and injuries that require surgery to heal.  The most common procedure oral surgeons will practice are wisdom tooth removals, but they are trained to fix even the most intense facial trauma.  This route usually contains a four-year residency following dental school, although some choose to get a medical degree as well.  

Prosthodontist specializes in developing dentures/prostheses/replacement teeth for patients that are missing teeth.  These procedures can be done for patients who lost their teeth from oral health complications, birth defects, and accidents.  Prosthodontist specialization residency is at least three years.  

Public health specialist focuses on community awareness in order to promote overall oral health.  This specialty focuses on the populations by spreading education to government officials and other Dentists in order to correctly deal with poor oral care in society.

Pedodontist is a dentist whose patients will consist mainly of children.  These Dentists are excessively trained in dealing with the anxiety of children in the dental office and how to provide the extra care needed.  The main procedures consist of extractions, cleanings, and filling, but depending on the anxiety of the patient, these procedures could require lot of time and patience.