Choosing an Oral Healthcare Provider (cont.)
Generally, three or more years of undergraduate education plus four years of dental school is required to become a general dentist. Additional post-graduate training is required to become a dental specialist, such as the specialists listed below.
Dental public health clinics promote dental health through organized community efforts. The clinics serve to educate the public through the administration of group dental care programs with the goal of preventing and controlling dental diseases on a community-wide basis. Dental public health clinics offer such services as finding a dentist, developing dental care programs for schools, providing information on fluoridation in the community, answering common questions about oral health and providing other oral health resources and support materials to their community.
An endodontist is the dental specialist concerned with the causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the human dental pulp or the nerve of the tooth. This specialist may perform simple to difficult root canal treatments or other types of surgical root procedures.
A radiologist is the oral health care provider who specializes in the production and interpretation of all types of X-ray images and data that are used in the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region.
Oral medicine is the specialty of dentistry that provides for the care of the medically complex patient through the integration of medicine and oral health care. This includes the diagnosis and management of oral diseases including oral cancer, lichen planus, candidiasis, and aphthous stomatitis. Oral medicine also evaluates complex medical patients prior to open-heart surgery, chemotherapy, and cancer therapy, as well as hospital inpatients.
An oral pathologist is the oral health care provider who studies the causes of diseases that alter or affect the oral structures (teeth, lips, cheeks, jaws) as well as parts of the face and neck. Oral pathologists examine and provide a diagnosis of the biopsy, tissue, or lesion sent to them by other oral health care providers.
An oral surgeon is the oral health care provider who performs many types of surgical procedures in and about the entire face, mouth, and jaw area. Oral surgeons treat accident victims who suffer facial injuries and offer reconstructive and dental implant surgery. They also treat patients with tumors and cysts of the jaws. The types of surgeries an oral surgeon may perform include: simple tooth extractions, complex extractions involving removal of soft tissue or overlying bone or remaining roots, impacted teeth (especially wisdom teeth) removal, soft tissue biopsies, removal of tumors in the oral cavity, implant positioning, complex jaw realignment surgeries involving facial or bite discrepancies, fractured cheek or jaw bone repair and soft tissue (cleft palate or lip) repair.