The dentist or dental surgeon is a health professional who specializes in dentistry. For every area of the human body, there is a medical specialist. For everything related to the oral cavity, the dentist is the specialist. The dentist is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of oral cavity diseases. He/She examines the oral cavity in order to diagnose and treat dental problems. Dental treatment may include the removal of dental caries, tooth restoration, root canal treatment, and the extraction of a tooth when necessary.
The Dentist’s Role
The dentist is the main provider of dental care. He/She is responsible for the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of oral diseases. The dentist’s responsibilities include:
- The diagnosis of oral diseases.
- The promotion of dental health education and disease prevention.
- The examination of the oral cavity by interpreting dental radiographs (x-ray) and diagnostic tests.
- The administration of anesthesia.
- The removal of dental caries and the performance of root canal treatment (RCT).
- The treatment of gum diseases (gingivitis and periodontitis).
- The using of dental filling materials to restore the shape and function of teeth.
- The replacement of missing teeth by denture, dental bridge, or dental implant.
- The performance of surgical procedures such as tooth extraction, the surgical removal of a wisdom tooth, apicoectomy, and implantology.
Dental Degree: Dentist Education and Training
The dentist should have extensive knowledge of different aspects of medicine. This medical knowledge includes anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Because oral cavity diseases can cause local complications in the face and neck region and systemic complications. The local complications include cellulitis (it is a bacterial infection of the inner layers of the skin), osteomyelitis (it is an inflammation of the jaw bone), and Ludwig’s angina (it is a life-threatening cellulitis and can cause airways obstruction). The systemic complications include sepsis – it is an overwhelming and a life-threatening immune response to a bacterial infection.
The Baltimore college of dental surgery is the first dental school in the world. It was founded in the united states in 1840. In Europe, the UK introduced independent studies of dentistry in 1859. However, some European countries in the 20th century like Spain, Italy, and Portugal have maintained dentistry as a specialty of medicine. So, to become a dentist, you have to get a medical degree first and then specialize in dentistry. This situation has changed since the last years of the 20th century with the criteria for harmonization of studies imposed by the European Union.
The curriculum for the dental degree varies depending on the country. In the European Union, the duration of studies is 5 years. The training program consists of different aspects:
- The study of sciences on which the dentistry is based (such as biology and statistics).
- The study of the anatomy, physiology, human behavior, and influence of environment on diseases.
- The study of the structure and function of teeth, oral cavity, jaws, and attached organs.
The study of diseases affecting the oral cavity, teeth, and jaws. Also, the study of treatments and preventive measures.
- Cariology and restorative Therapy
- Oral microbiology
- Oral pathology
- Oral surgery
- Pediatric dentistry
- Dental radiology
- Dental prosthesis
- Clinical experience (diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases) under the supervision of professionals.
In the United States, the title is DDS “Doctor of Dental Surgery” or DMD “Doctor of Dental Medicine”. It requires four years of undergraduates education to earn a bachelor of science degree (BSc) and four years of education and training in a dental school to earn a dental degree (DDS or DMD). During the first two years of dental school, the curricula are basic medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, biochemistry, and pharmacology. During the last two years, dental students diagnose and treat oral diseases under supervision. Many dentists continue education and training to get a certification in one of nine recognized dental specialties.
After graduation from dental school, the dental student becomes a general dentist with DMD degree (doctor of dental medicine) or DDS degree (doctor of dental surgery). There is no difference between the two degrees, both DMD and DDS receive the same education and training.
The general dentist diagnoses, prevents, and treats dental diseases. He/She provides a wide range of dental services such as tooth restoration, root canal treatment, gum disease treatment, replacement of missing teeth with dental bridge or denture and TMJ disorder therapy.
Some dentists complete two to four years of additional education and training after graduation to become a specialist and get a certification in one of the recognized dental specialties.
Types of Dental Specialists
- Public Health Dentist: He/She specializes in public health dentistry. The public health dentist is concerned with the prevention and control of dental diseases. Also, he/she promotes dental health through organized community initiatives.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: He/She specializes in oral and maxillofacial surgery. The oral and maxillofacial surgeon diagnoses, prevents, and treats diseases, malformation, and deformation involving both functional and aesthetic aspect of hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. He/She performs surgical procedures such as the extraction of a tooth, the surgical removal of a wisdom tooth, and periodontal surgery. Also, he/she treats jaws fractures, tumors, cysts, cleft lip, and TMJ disorders.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist: He/She specializes in oral and maxillofacial pathology. The oral and maxillofacial pathologist diagnoses, and manages the pathological diseases located in the oral and maxillofacial region.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist: He/She specializes in oral and maxillofacial radiology. The oral and maxillofacial radiologist diagnoses, and manages diseases located in the oral and maxillofacial region by the production and interpretation of diagnostic imaging.
- Endodontist: He/She specializes in endodontics – maintaining the natural teeth through endodontic treatment. The endodontist diagnoses, prevents, and treats dental pulp diseases.
- Orthodontist: He/She specializes in orthodontics. The orthodontist diagnoses, prevents, and treats the deformities of teeth and jaws (malocclusion).
- Pediatric Dentist: He/She specializes in pediatric dentistry. Pediatric dentist diagnoses, prevents, and treats dental diseases during childhood (from birth to puberty).
- Periodontist: He/She specializes in periodontics. Periodontist diagnoses, prevents, and treats the periodontal diseases. The periodontium is the surrounding and supporting tissue of teeth. It consists of gum, bone, cementum, and periodontal ligament.
Prosthodontist: He/She specializes in dental prosthesis. Prosthodontist replaces missing teeth with dental prosthesis such as dental bridges and dentures, to restore the function of teeth (chewing and speaking) and improve aesthetics.
Famous Dentists in History
- Edward Hartley Angle: He was an American orthodontist. He is known as “The Father of Modern Orthodontics”. Edward Hartley Angle invented and developed many orthodontic appliances. He also classified the misalignment of teeth and jaws. He opened the angel school of orthodontia in St. Louis, Missouri 1990.
- Sanford Christie Barnum: He was an American dentist. He is the inventor of the rubber dam.
- Greene Vardiman Black: G.V.Black was a professor of chemistry at the university of Chicago. He is known as “The Father of Operative Dentistry”. He classified caries lesions based on the tooth type and dental caries location (Black’s classification of cavities). He also introduced the principles of ideal cavity preparation, to prepare the tooth for fillings. His principle “Extension for Prevention” is still famous in the dental community.
- Pierre Fauchard: He was a french dentist. He is known as “The Father of Modern Dentistry”. Pierre fauchard is the first person who introduces dentistry on a scientific basis in his book “The surgeon dentist”, published in 1728. His book is considered the first complete book on this part of medicine.
- William Thomas Green Morton: He was an American dentist. William T. G. Morton is the first person who demonstrated the use of ether as an inhalation anesthetic in 1846.
- Horace Wells: He was an American dentist. Horace Wells is the first person who used the anesthetic in dentistry, especially nitrogen oxide (laughing gas). He wanted to make his discovery known to the medical public. In 1845, at Boston general hospital, his experiment failed because of an incorrect dosage. His reputation in the professional world was ruined. He suffered a nervous breakdown, while William T. G. Morton mistakenly considered the discoverer of anesthesia in 1846.
- Per-Ingvar Branemark: He was a Swedish orthopedic surgeon, researcher, and the developer of dental implants. He is known as “The Father of Modern Dental Implantology”.