As of 2016, more than 196,000 dentists are actively practicing in the United States based on a report by the American Dental Association.
Out of this number, 21 percent are considered dental specialists. Currently, ADA acknowledges nine dental specialties such as the Endodontics, Prosthodontics, Periodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Dental Public Health, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, and Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology.
The Nine Dental Specialists
- An endodontist is the dental specialist tapped when it comes to concerns about the dental pulp and its surrounding tissues.
- A prosthodontist deals with the creation of artificial teeth like dentures, implants, and bridges which are used to repair and maintain the health, function, and appearance of a person’s teeth and maxillofacial structures.
- A periodontist helps prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases related to the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth.
- A pediatric dentist is concerned with the preventive and therapeutic care of children up to their teenage years.
- An orthodontist prevents, diagnoses, intercepts, and corrects misaligned teeth or malocclusion. He or she also repairs neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities of the orofacial structures.
- A public health dentist serves the community through the promotion of dental health, prevention, and control of dental diseases.
- An oral and maxillofacial surgeon performs surgery to diagnose and treat dental injuries and diseases in hopes of restoring the oral and maxillofacial region’s functions and aesthetics.
- An oral and maxillofacial radiologist is a specialist in the production and interpretation of images and data which are often used for diagnosis.
- An oral and maxillofacial pathologist is in-charge of examining causes, processes, and effects of dental diseases, as well as, in identifying and managing pathologies of the oral and maxillofacial region.
Zooming in on Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
As mentioned above, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon deals with the treatment of the whole craniomaxillofacial complex which includes the mouth, jaws, face, and skull.
ADA added the specialty to its recognized list of dental specialties in October 1990. Other countries like Australia, United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe consider oral and maxillofacial surgery both as a dental and medical specialty. Therefore, practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery in these countries requires degrees in dentistry and medicine.
How to be an oral surgeon
To be an oral surgeon, you must undergo extensive education and training and a surgical expertise. If you dream to practice this dental specialty in the future, you must complete a pre-dental education, a dental education, additional hours of training and residency.
Most dental schools require a two-year, college-level pre-dental education, while a dental education takes four years of basic dental training to graduate with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.
Afterward, a minimum of four years under a hospital-based surgical residency program is necessary, making the average education and training years of aspiring oral surgeons 12 to 14 years.
What are the common dental problems an oral surgeon deals?
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon usually performs surgery for impacted teeth especially when it involves a wisdom tooth, tooth loss (using dental implants), jaw-related problems like temporomandibular joint disorder, and other conditions such as broken facial bones.