A dentist is a physician whose practice is in the field of dentistry. This involves the mouth, teeth, gums and related areas. Some studies have shown that diseases relating to the teeth and gums can be indicative or indicators of some health issues. The health of the mouth is essential to the general overall health of the body and a dentist will encourage and assist their patients in maintaining a healthy mouth by regular cleaning and check-ups.
A dentist performs many important duties in the maintenance of oral health. Check-ups are a major part of the job and are important for patients keeping on top of their oral care. In addition to general check-ups, general dentistry involves basic treatments that can be done at a regular dental office. Such procedures might include filling a tooth, performing a minor surgical procedure such as a tooth extraction, and cleaning and polishing teeth. A dentist will encourage patients to practice good dental care by brushing and flossing and getting regular cleanings as these good habits can help prevent cavities and other tooth and gum diseases.
Within dentistry, there are specific specialties which require further training, creating expertise in a particular area. Examples of specialties include:
- the area which specializes in the treatment of the internal tissues or "pulp" of the tooth which is mostly made up of nerves and blood vessels; an endodontist performs root canal treatments and other procedures and examinations involving the inner tooth
-deals with the straightening and alignment of the teeth and jaw; an orthodontist will fit braces and treat for disorders involving misaligned teeth; will also deal with issues involving bone in and around the mouth area which may be related to other health issues
- refers to the area around the tooth, including the gums and other tissues; a periodontist will deal with gum disease and other gum ailments
- the area relating to cosmetic dentistry and the appearance of teeth; a prosthodontist fits implants to replace removed teeth and deals with other prosthetics in the mouth
- specializes in treating children's teeth; may work with other specialists if specific areas (e.g. gum disease) are involved
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Like most careers in the health industry, a dentist is required to be caring and compassionate as well as clever and competent. Since many people are afraid of visiting a dental office for treatment, it is beneficial for a dentist to be good with people and to be able to reassure them and explain procedures to them in a simple way.
Academic qualifications vary around the world but generally require a bachelor of science degree and then further postgraduate studies. Most countries performing western medicine require a dentist to have completed four years of postgraduate study to qualify as either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine). Other dental degrees valid in various countries include: BDent (Bachelor of Dentistry); BDSc (Bachelor of Dental Science); MDent (Master of Dentistry); and DD (Doctor of Dentistry). There are others that are accepted in various countries, but these are the most common.
After the academic qualifications have been obtained, clinical training is undertaken. In most places, this is at least two years and then certification exams are required. Once fully qualified, further study can be undertaken in order to train in a specific specialty.
The workplace tends to be a dental office or dental hospital and the environments tend to be typical clinical environments - clean and sterile and working with the same professionals every day. The variation will be in the patients and interaction with different people everyday. As all towns and cities require dental offices, it should be possible for a dentist to find a workplace within easy commuting distance.