by Fahad Manzur
A career in dentistry can be much more than just filling cavities and cleaning teeth. The world of dentistry offers a wide variety of advanced graduate programs and specializations. Specialists require field specific training in a residency or an advanced degree in order to practice.
Orthodontics: Orthodontics was the first and is still the most recognized specialization in the dental field. Orthodontists deal with malocclusions (improper bites) as a result of teeth and jaw irregularity. Orthodontic treatment usually involves using braces and retainers to fix crooked teeth. Some more comprehensive orthodontic treatments involve devices necessary for jaw expansion.
Orthodontic programs are generally very competitive and involve at least 2-4 years of post graduate training. In order to become a certified orthodontist in the United States, a doctor must pass American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) examinations and present six orthodontics cases to be evaluated by the ABO.
Pediatric Dentistry: Pediatric dentists specialize in treating young children from birth and help treat children’s tooth decay. They also provide a resource for new parents to maintain their children’s oral health and provide information on thumb and pacifier habits.
Endodontics: Endodontists are most commonly referred to for root canal surgery. Endodontic specialists practice on the center of the tooth, which is made up of connective tissues. When the center of the tooth becomes diseased, endodontists must perform root canal therapy, to save the tooth.
In addition to endodontic therapy, they also treat severe dental trauma and cracked teeth. To become an endodontist, a dentist must have at least 2 years of postgraduate training in endodontic practices.
Periodontology: Periodontists work with dental implants and specialize in work around the periodontium. When complex bacteria accumulates, it can cause periodontal diseases, deteriorating the structures of the teeth. This can lead to tooth decay and even alveolar bone loss.
To become a periodontist, a doctor must undergo at least three years of postgraduate training and learn how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal diseases and other oral pathology.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Oral and maxillofacial specialists perform surgery on the craniomaxillofacial complex, which includes the mouth, jaws, face, and skull. Because of the broad jurisdiction oral and maxillofacial surgeons have, they can choose a variety of surgical procedures to specialize in. Some of the common practices involve dentoalveolar surgery, which deals with complex teeth extractions and bone grafting surgery to accommodate oral prosthetics like braces, implants and dentures. Oral surgeons can also choose to work in cosmetic facial surgery to reconstruct face and jaw structures such as cleft lip and palate surgery.
Certain oral surgeons also work with treating and removing pathology like cysts and tumors. The path to becoming an oral surgeon involves up to 6 years of residency training after dental school and is among the most competitive programs to get into in the medical field.
Prosthodontics: Prosthodontics, or prosthetic dentistry, deals with the treatment, rehabilitation, and maintenance of oral function in patients with missing teeth. Prosthetic dentists work with dentures, bridges, and restorative implants to treat pathology leading to tooth loss. Because their work is involves periodontic and maxillofacial knowledge, prosthetic dentists are sometimes referred to as “bulletproof dentists.”
Prosthetic dentistry requires three years of clinical training after acquiring a dental degree and involves passing a four-part examination by the American Board of Prosthodontics.