Know your dental specialists
The field of dentistry consists of many specialties and supporting professionals that all provide a supporting role in the treatment, diagnosis and prevention of dental diseases, disorders and conditions.
Indicates a specialist in a particular area of dentistry or a Doctor who is highly skilled in a specific and restricted field of dentistry.
Dentist or General Dental Practitioner
A dentist is a healthcare professional qualified to practice dentistry after graduating with a degree from a University Dental School. You might have noticed some letters after their names such as BDS which stands for Bachelor of Dental Surgery or DDS – Doctor of Dental Surgery. Most dental degree courses take between 4-6 years of study and clinical experience working with patients under supervision. In most countries dentists are called “Doctors” because their training is very similar to that of their medical colleagues.
The specialist has overall responsibility for orthodontic patients in their care. Their role is to diagnose any problems and suggest treatment options for the patient, explaining the risks and benefits, and then provide or supervise the care. To train successfully as a specialist orthodontist usually takes at least ten years. The career pathway starts with a degree in dentistry followed by at least two years of vocational training and a higher dental qualification. A further three years of combined study and supervised clinical work in a university hospital leads to a specialist qualification and a listing on the General Dental Council’s specialist register.
The role of the dental nurse is to assist in the efficient operation of the dental practice. There are many tasks for which the dental nurse is responsible, from preparing and clearing up the surgery, ensuring that hygiene standards are maintained at all times, to taking notes, passing instruments and materials to the clinician and caring for the patient. Dental nurses must be qualified or be in training to register with the General Dental Council. Additional qualifications are available and for dental nurses working in orthodontics the most likely is the Orthodontic Nursing Certificate.
The orthodontic therapist is a new role which enables all dental nurses and other dental care professionals to work in a clinical capacity, under the supervision of an orthodontist. First, the dental care professional must undertake a year-long training programme, leading to an approved qualification in orthodontic therapy. This is usually a higher education course involving a high degree of practical training at the student’s training practice. Orthodontic therapists are taught to carry out skills such as placing and removing brackets so that they can take responsibility for some of the routine tasks in the orthodontic practice.
A paedodontist is a dentist who specialises in the care of children’s teeth. These specialists help train children to accept dentistry. They restore and maintain the baby, mixed, and permanent teeth. They employ preventive measures for dental caries and periodontal disease and help correct various problems of the bite.
Implantology is a branch of dentistry that involves inserting an artificial tooth into a patient’s jaw. An implantologist is a dentist who specialises in implant planning and placement. There are several types of dental implants; the most widely accepted and successful is the osseointegrated implant, based on the discovery by Swedish Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark that titanium can be successfully fused into bone. A variation on the implant procedure is the implant-supported bridge, or implant-supported denture.
A periodontist is a dental specialist with expertise in diagnosing, preventing and treating gum disease. A Periodontist specialises in the diagnosis and surgical and non-surgical treatment of diseases and conditions of the supporting structures of the teeth (periodontium). Periodontists are experts in the management of patients with periodontal diseases including gingivitis, periodontitis and gum recession.
A prosthodontist is a specialist who can replace and restore damaged or missing teeth using various techniques including crowns and bridges. They have spent additional years of post graduate study advancing their knowledge, skill, and ability. A prosthodontist is a diagnostic and treatment-planning expert who deals commonly with complex dental problems. Multidisciplinary dental treatment requires teamwork. A prosthodontist will usually network in a team to achieve optimal long-term dental health.
An endodontist is a dentist specialising in diseases of the dental pulp and nerve. Endodontics is the branch of dentistry which focuses on the morphology, physiology, and pathology of the dental pulp and its surrounding tissues. Endodontists understand the etiology, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and injuries of the internal part of the teeth.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a specialist who treats the entire skeletal frame work of the head and neck including the anatomical area of the mouth, jaws, face, skull and other associated structures. They are essentially plastic surgeons specialising on the head and neck. Maxillofacial surgeons are usually initially qualified in dentistry and have undergone further surgical training. Most maxillofacial surgeons have qualifications in dentistry and medicine.
An orthodontic laboratory technician, is a dental technician who works with orthodontists to design, fabricate, custom-fit and repair teeth-straightening devices such as braces and retainers. Dental laboratory technicians make crowns, bridges and other dental devices.
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