What does the field of dentistry include?
Dentistry is the art and science of preventing, diagnosing and treating malformations, injuries and diseases of the mouth, jaw and teeth. The field of dentistry includes a wide array of dental services, such as dental cleanings, fillings, dental sealants, oral extractions, crowns, braces, oral cancer screenings and dental implants.
Why are Regular Dental Visits Important?
There is a strong relationship between oral health and overall health. Bacteria from untreated gum disease and tooth decay can spread infection to other parts of the body. Taking good care of your oral health is just as important as taking care of your whole body. With regular six-month dental checkups, you can help prevent tooth decay, protect yourself against periodontal disease and maintain an attractive smile. In addition, regular check-ups can help prevent major problems from developing by treatment small issues before larger ones emerge. It’s all about prevention. Even if your teeth don’t hurt, there may be problems developing that give you no warning. With regular visits, you’ll be able to keep your smile looking healthy and beautiful.
How Early and How Often Should Dental Visits Begin?
Today, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states that children should first see a dentist by one year of age. This way, the dentist can examine the child’s oral health with the first new teeth. After that, the AAPD recommends that children, teens and adults visit a dentist for a regular checkup at least once every six months. Those who are at a greater risk of gum disease or oral cancer should visit a dentist more than twice a year. Your dentist will help advise you of the best schedule for your unique needs.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is often referred to as periodontal disease or gingivitis and is often caused by a buildup of bacteria and plaque. Other key factors include genetics, medications, smoking and teeth grinding. When detected and treated early, its progression can be stopped. If the disease advances, bone loss and tooth loss can occur. The telltale signs of periodontal disease include bleeding gums, irritated gums, tooth sensitivity, loose teeth and chronic bad breath. Advanced gum disease is generally treated by oral surgeons.
What are the educational requirements for becoming a Dentist?
Dentists undergo years of didactic training and hands-on training. These professionals must have a bachelor’s degree and pass the Dental Admissions Test in order to gain acceptance into an accredited dental school. Most dental schools are four-year graduate programs that include in-depth training and an internship known as resident training. Upon successful completion of the dental school program, general dentists obtain either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. The education and training are the same for both degrees.
Are there Specialties in Dentistry?
Dentists can choose a specialty during the postgraduate dental program or opt for additional certifications in specialty areas after graduating dental school. The recognized dental specialties include oral and maxillofacial dentists, endodontists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, dental-maxillofacial radiologists, periodontists, oral pathologists, pediatric dentists, special needs dentists and public health dentists. Each specialty has a focus. Oral and maxillofacial dentists deal with the identification and surgical treatment of diseases and defects to the jaw and surrounding areas.
Endodontists specialize in the pathology and physiology of the teeth itself. Specifically, these dental specialists perform root canals and work with the pulp, nerves and root of teeth. Orthodontists focus on the development of teeth and its relation to anatomical structures. Often, these specialists implement corrective procedures for proper positioning of the teeth, jaw and soft tissues. Oral surgeons implement both surgical and adjunctive treatment for injuries and diseases that affect the dento-alveolar complex, while oral pathologists study the pathogenesis of oral diseases through radiographic and laboratory procedures. These specialists also provide forensic evaluations.
Dental-maxillofacial radiologists are often used for the assessment of oral conditions. These professionals utilize diagnostic imaging procedures to identify problems in both soft and hard tissues. Periodontists identify and treat gum disorders, such as gingivitis. Pediatric dentists work specifically with children in the treatment of dental abnormalities in children along with associated behavioral issues.
Prosthodontists focus on the restoration and reconstruction of the natural teeth or the replacement of missing teeth. Special needs dentists work directly with patients who suffer from physical, psychiatric or medical disabilities. Often, this population requires special techniques in treating oral health problems. Lastly, public health dentists work within the community to promote oral health education and the administration of dental care programs. As you can see, the field and practice of dentistry is very diverse.
What if I’m not Happy with My Smile?
If you’re not satisfied with your smile, today’s advanced dentistry offers many options. No longer do you have to settle for misshaped, missing, stained or chipped teeth. Professional teeth whitening from a dentist will give you a Hollywood smile that you can be proud of. Dentists also offer cosmetic dentistry methods for an award-winning smile. From dental implants and crowns, today’s dentists use materials that match the color of your natural teeth. Even today’s fillings no longer resemble Grandma’s. Silver is out, and fillings are created with a white material for a blending look. Crowns and dental overlays can be applied to reshape the existing tooth for a full-smile makeover. You can even pick out your own shade for tooth replacement.
What are Cavities and How Can I Prevent Them?
Cavities are holes in the tooth often caused by bacteria, plaque, non-frequent brushing, flossing and foods containing starches and sugars. When teeth are exposed to acid from food, the tooth enamel begins to lose minerals. Over time, the enamel is weakened and destroyed and forms a cavity. To help prevent cavities, it’s helpful to brush teeth three times a day, floss, avoid foods high in sugar, use a fluoride toothpaste and a fluoride mouth rinse. For younger children and adolescents, dental sealants on the back molars can help prevent tooth decay often associated with these teeth. The dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that help protect the small grooves and pits of molars. It’s a barrier that prevents bacteria and food from becoming trapped. The first permanent molars typically arrive between the ages of 5 and 7, and second permanent molars come in between 10 and 14 years of age.
How to Choose the Right Dentist?
Your dentist and you will be long-term healthcare partners. It’s important to choose one who you will be comfortable with and provides excellent dental care and customer service. Here’s a list of some questions to keep in mind when selecting a dentist.
- Is the dental office close to your home and have convenient hours that meet your schedule?
- Does the dentist have a modern approach to preventative dentistry?
- Does the dentist keep up with continuing educational workshops and attend conferences?
- Is information provided for all fee and assistance with dental insurance rendered?
- What types of anesthesia are offered for a comfortable dental experience?
- Is the dental staff helpful in addressing concerns and questions?
- What are the arrangements for dental emergencies? Is there an emergency referral service for office afterhours?
- Is the dentist a member of the American Dental Association (ADA)?