Maintaining good dental or oral health is not just about appearance. It also translates to a person’s overall wellbeing. However, dental issues, including cavity and gum disorders, can affect speaking and eating habits. It can also cause severe pain, bad breath, and other health issues such as diabetes, arthritis, or heart conditions.
Thus, dentistry is a special medical science specialty that can help you with dental or oral concerns and health. It also helps prevent dental issues from causing the diminished quality of life and posing various health risks and complications.
Definition of Dentistry
Dentistry can also be referred to as oral medicine and dental medicine. It’s a medical science branch that focuses on studying, diagnosing, treating, and preventing oral cavity diseases and disorders. It also includes the disorders of the teeth supporting structures and the soft tissues around the mouth.
On the other hand, dentists are the medical providers who majorly specialize in this field. They handle a wide range of dental concerns, including minor and severe cases. Other additional primary roles include;
- Supporting oral health and preventing or managing various related disorders
- Diagnosing oral disorders
- Making treatment plans to help maintain and restore the normal oral health of the patients
- Closely observing the growth and development of both the jaws and teeth of the child
- Safely administering anesthetics
- Interpretation of x-ray as well as the diagnostic test or results
- Performing surgical procedures on the teeth, bone tissues, and the bone of the oral cavity
- Working to ensure the safety of the patients while providing effective oral care
The main specialties of dentistry include;
General dentistry (family dentist):
The role of a general dentist involves caring for the patient’s overall oral health regularly. It’s the popularly known branch of dentistry that provides vital preventative oral care. It includes dental x-rays, regular dental cleaning, and educating patients on proper home oral care.
In addition, general dentistry is concerned with;
- Restorative oral care, including addressing tooth decay issue by artificially replacing it
- Repairing and restoring missing, cracked, or chipped teeth
- Providing teeth whitening services
- Treating oral disorders that develop due to root and gum diseases
- Guiding the patients during treatment services such as fixing braces, mouth guards, false teeth, or other dental forms of treatment
- Checking and monitoring the mouth, head, or neck's general health to make sure that there are no severe problems.
The orthodontics field is concerned with the diagnosis and correction of misaligned jaws and teeth. The treatment forms include bracers, retainers, wires, and various corrective appliances. Orthodontics also focuses on;
- Correcting gaps, overbite, underbite, and crossbite that arise due to misaligned jaw
- Correcting bite and teeth alignment to enhance smile and support teeth functionality and longevity
Pediatric dentistry is concerned with the oral health of children. It specializes in the oral development and overall dental care of infants, young children, and adolescents.
Much of the routine of practice is based on caries control, which includes the administration of fluoride as well as nutritional and hygiene training. The requirement to modify tooth placements is the second most commonly encountered issue. Correction of early irregularities in tooth alignment may eliminate the need for extensive therapy.
To rectify jaw alignments, many pediatric dentists utilize growth-influencing procedures. Patience and working knowledge of children's behavior patterns, as well as childhood physical and mental disorders and disease repercussions, are crucial pedodontist credentials.
Pediatric dentists are trained to diagnose and treat disorders such as missing, crooked, decayed, and crowded teeth. They are also responsible for;
- Detecting, managing, and treating disorders of developing teeth
- Monitoring children’s physical growth and development
- Fulfilling the dental requirements of every child
Periodontics focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders of the gums and the teeth' supporting structures. Periodontists are trained to identify and address the early stages of different gum disorders. Sometimes, they conduct minor surgeries such as gum grafts or reduction operations. This is to cure chronic gum disorders and restore the patient’s smile.
Moreover, dental periodontists are responsible for installing dental implants as well as lengthening the already existing crowns. Therefore, you should visit a periodontist if you are suffering from chronic gum disease. They can also help if you have a health issue that might complicate minor gum disorders.
Periodontitis, also known as pyorrhea, is the most common periodontal disease. It is an inflammatory illness caused by local irritants. Periodontitis, if left untreated, damages periodontal tissues and is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
The majority of periodontal developments have been in treatment approaches. Bacterial plaque, a soft coating of bacteria-rich material that adheres to the teeth, is thought to be the greatest damaging factor to the gums and tissues around the teeth. Periodontists recommend removing such plaque by a specialized regimen of regulated hygiene.
Prosthodontics is concerned with repairing, restoring, and replacing missing or broken teeth. Prosthodontists are the dental specialists trained to develop suitable teeth replacements. This is to solve oral function, general looks, comfort, and dental health of patients with missing teeth. They mainly use bridges, dentures, or crowns to understand the dynamics of the patient’s smile.
Furthermore, prosthodontists are responsible for post oral cancer reconstruction, addressing traumatic mouth injuries, jaw joint issues, and sleeping or snoring disorders.
Endodontics is the dentistry specialty responsible for detecting, treating, and preventing infections and damage in the human dental pulp, often known as the tooth nerve. An endodontist may conduct a treatment such as a root canal.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery
This branch is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of congenital dental defects, injuries, and diseases. It mainly deals with disorders of the hard and soft tissues within the mouth and maxillofacial area (face and jaw). It includes the lips, soft palate, cheeks, gums, hard palate, facial, and tongue tissues.
The oral and maxillofacial surgeons, on the other hand, play various roles; including;
- Surgically addressing dental problems
- Removing the damaged teeth
- Performing reconstructive facial surgical procedures
- Placing dental implants
- Extracting tumors that develop in the facial region
Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist
Oral and maxillofacial radiology is a dental specialty and radiology field concerned with the interpretation of pictures and data generated by all modalities of radiant radiation utilized for the diagnosis and management of illnesses and ailments affecting the oral and maxillofacial area.
Dental anesthesiology is a branch of anesthesiology that manages pain, anxiety, and general patient health during dental, oral, maxillofacial, and associated surgical or diagnostic operations during the perioperative period. In dentistry, there is a special emphasis on increasing patient safety, and some seek research in all aspects of anesthesiology.
Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist
Oral and maxillofacial pathology is a dental specialty and pathology field concerned with the nature, detection, and management of disorders affecting the oral and maxillofacial areas. It is a branch of research that studies the causes, mechanisms, and consequences of various disorders.
Dental Public Health (DPH)
In both Canada and the United States, public health dentistry is recognized as a specialty. The American Dental Association recognizes dental public health as a specialty if the master's degree holder continues on to a year of training and passes the American Board of Dental Public Health test. Dental public health training is also provided in the United Kingdom. The specialty is not as highly valued in the rest of the globe.
A person's most distinguishing characteristic is their face. The bottom part of the face is made up of the mouth, which comprises the lips, cheeks, jaws, teeth, and gums. Cosmetic (or aesthetic) dentistry may have a significant impact on the quality of life for individuals who require it.
Cosmetic dentistry may be divided into two types: skeletal and dental. Oral surgery, which can affect the posture of the jaws, can result in skeletal abnormalities. Dental alterations can be made by either adding to, subtracting from, or shifting teeth. Bonding, a tooth-colored plastic, and porcelain, a form of ceramic, are the most often used materials to modify the look of teeth.
A drill is used to remove the tooth structure. When only a little portion of the tooth is removed, this is referred to as sculpting or reshaping, and nothing is added afterwards. If a larger portion of the tooth is removed, porcelain may be placed in a new spot. Braces, which can be either fixed or removable, are used to move teeth.
Reconstructive dentistry is any extensive reconstruction of the mouth, usually with porcelain and metal. Individuals who have multiple serious cavities, widespread bad gum disease, or have been in an accident may require reconstructive dentistry. Patients may require several crowns (caps), gum therapy, root canal therapy, braces, or oral surgery, including dental implants, as part of their reconstructive dentistry treatment.
Reconstructions are being planned to first halt the spread of current illness and then heal the harm. Fear and other emotional components of treatment are commonly involved, and a dentist must be empathetic and understand psychology. When necessary, major potential causes of postoperative discomfort are generally removed early in treatment by conducting root canal therapy. Final porcelain bridge construction normally occurs 6 to 12 weeks after any required surgery is completed. Patients must recognize that restored teeth require regular cleanings and upkeep.
A dental implant is a man-made tooth root. Its purpose is to secure prosthetic teeth to the underlying jawbone. Dental implants can be seen as screws, and the jawbone as a piece of wood. A screw would be turned half its length into a piece of wood in this analogy, and an artificial tooth would be bonded to the part of the screw that protrudes above the wood.
The tooth would be securely fastened to the screw, which would be securely fastened to the wood. A single dental implant can be used to replace a single lost tooth. In a jaw that is lacking all of the teeth, four to eight dental implants may be put.
Dental implants must be implanted in sufficient bone that is free of infection. Sometimes surgical operations are required initially, either to clear up an existing infection or to build extra bone for implantation techniques like bone ridge augmentation or nasal sinus elevation. The operation to insert the dental implants is identical to that of tooth extraction.
Dental implant reconstructions might take 6 to 12 months to complete, owing to the time required for healing between surgery. Because bone is living tissue, it takes time for it to respond positively to biocompatible titanium implants. The biophysics of the early cellular responses of hard (bone) and soft (skin and ligament) tissues following tooth implantation is a hotly debated topic. This finding has implications for orthopedics, such as the replacement of spinal rods and the repair of tough fractured bones, both of which require screws for rapid immobilization.
Oral microbiology, which is concerned with the effects of the more than 600 different species of oral bacteria on the teeth, gums, mouth, and other parts of the body that connect to the mouth through the digestive system and the circulation, is an important part of dental practice. Disease of the teeth and gums is generally bacterial in origin and can have a profound effect on general health. For example, the presence of certain species of bacteria in the gums can negatively influence the health of the heart and other important organs.
A significant amount of research in dentistry focuses on oral microbiology. Vaccines to prevent cavities are being studied, and antibiotics are used to treat periodontal (gum) disease. Vaccines and antibiotics work by suppressing or killing specific species of bacteria that have been identified as causative agents of disease.
Geriatric dentistry is concerned with the dental health of the elderly, who often have serious medical conditions and are on several medications. Elderly persons frequently have symptoms of tooth decay and gingival (gum) diseases that differ from those of younger people.
There are numerous more disciplines in dentistry that, while not real specializations or subspecialties, are the primary focus of individual dentists who devote all or a significant portion of their practice to these professions. Oral medicine and forensic dentistry are two of them.
Stomatology, or oral medicine, is the treatment of disorders that affect both the skin and the oral mucous membranes. Some of these disorders, such as pemphigus vulgaris, might have their initial symptoms in the mouth and can be fatal. Oral cancer has a high death rate, in part because it develops so near to and easily includes so many critical systems.
An oral pathologist must remove a part of the lesion for inspection under the microscope (biopsy) in all such illnesses of the oral cavity, and many additional laboratory tests are frequently necessary for the diagnosis of oral mucosal diseases.
Forensic dentistry is the study and practice of dental features important to legal issues. It is a rare speciality that is not generally taught in dentistry school. Forensic dentistry, on the other hand, is of significant legal relevance for a variety of reasons, the most essential of which being that the teeth are the structures of the body that are most resistant to fire or putrefaction.
Furthermore, the arrangement of the teeth or any restorations in them is almost or fully unique to any particular individual, and if dental records can be located, identification with confidence equivalent to that offered by fingerprinting may be possible. For example, identification of human remains following airplane accidents is frequently possible only using this method. Minor tooth anomalies can also be duplicated in bite marks, allowing a suspect to be recognized if he or she has bitten another person.
Types of Dental Procedures
Dentists are always the first line of defense when it comes to oral health issues. They are mainly concerned with giving primary preventive care and restorative therapies to patients. However, they sometimes perform a range of dental procedures whenever it’s necessary. Some of the common procedures include;
This is a treatment procedure to treat and repair decayed, fractured, chipped, or discolored teeth and minimize gaps. It involves the use of composite resins to fix certain substances on the tooth surface for therapeutic purposes.
The bonding process starts by applying an enamel-like composite substance on the tooth surface. The tooth is then sculpted into shape, polished, and contoured to make decay, chip, or crack invisible.
- Bridges and implants
Bridges and implants are the crucial procedures to replace a damaged or missing tooth. Bridges refer to the false teeth that are anchored in place by other surrounding teeth. Each bridge comprises two crowns on the anchoring teeth together with false teeth in the middle. On the other hand, dental implants refer to the artificial roots that support the replaced teeth.
This is a device that surgeons use to correct and repair teeth alignments and problems associated with bite (underbite or overbite). The purpose of braces is to straighten teeth by applying gentle pressure.
- Dental fillings
Dentists often opt for the dental filling procedure to treat and repair tooth or teeth structure. These structural damages usually develop due to tooth decay, trauma, and wear.
After correcting the tooth structure disorders, the dentist restores the tooth using one of the different filling materials. They include amalgam, gold, porcelain, and composite resin or the white filling substance.
- Crowns and caps
These are covers designed to fit over the completely damaged tooth. This is if decay, bad stain, breakage, or misshaped is the primary cause. The crowns are made of metal, acrylic, porcelain, or a combination of metal and porcelain.
The entire procedure takes more than one session since it’s quite a process. To prepare the tooth or teeth for crowning, the dentist first freezes the tooth with anesthesia and files it down to enable the cap to fit over. Gums and teeth impression is then prepared, and a temporary cap is fitted on the tooth for a while. This is before the permanent crown gets ready.
Therefore, your next session will involve removing the temporary cap and a procedure to cement the crown over the tooth. This crown closely matches the shape and color of the natural teeth.
Dentures refer to the prosthetic devices used to replace damaged or missing teeth that are beyond repair. They are the natural-looking teeth replacements that are usually removable. Dentures are usually categorized into full and partial dentures.
Full dentures are used if all the natural teeth have been extracted. Partial dentures are fixed to the metal frame connected to the natural teeth. They are mainly used to fill the gaps after the removal of the permanent teeth.
This involves removing the severely damaged tooth or teeth. Sometimes, the dentist can recommend this procedure if there is a need to remove permanent teeth for orthodontic treatment purposes. Extraction is also suitable when the baby tooth has long or misshapen roots that are hindering it from falling out. Extraction of the tooth is thus necessary to create a way for the permanent tooth to grow.
- Root canals
This is a therapeutic procedure to get rid of the infected or damaged pulp tissues in the tooth's root chamber. If your tooth is decayed, cracked, or injured, the dentist can open it up and clean out the infected tissue. Space is then filled, while the opening is firmly sealed to prevent other teeth from drifting out of line.
Dentistry is mainly concerned with the patient's oral health, dental functionality, and oral cavity disorders. Endodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, pediatric dentistry, and other dental specialties are available in the discipline of dentistry. Dentists are thus trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent various conditions. It also includes those affecting supporting, nervous, muscular, lymphatic, and vascular structures.