Dentistry in the U.S.
Dentistry has remained a notable and important branch of medicine throughout the world. Carrying many responsibilities from study and treatment to cosmetics and general care, a dentist cannot be categorized into just one field of study.
- Endodontics: The treatment of the dental pulp and tissues inside the tooth. Endodontists are commonly known for treating the root canal, or removing damaged tissues and pulp from the tooth.
- Periodontics: Similar to endodontics, periodontic dentistry is the study of disease around the tooth—specifically, the gum. Gum diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis, and other infections are treated by periodontic dentists.
- Oral Surgery: As the name suggests, oral surgeons specialize in treating diseases and oral injuries through surgery, and are responsible for dental implants, surgical reconstruction, removing wisdom teeth, and more.
- Pediatrics: Similar to pediatricians, pediatric dentists are responsible for the oral health of infants and children. In this field more than any other, dentists are focused on maintenance and prevention of diseases in order to ensure a life of healthy dental care for children.
- Prosthodontics: Also known as prosthetic dentistry, prosthodontics is a more cosmetic-oriented field of dentistry that replaces damaged tissues and fixes misalignment with artificial substitutes. Capping teeth, getting dentures or bridges are all within the responsibilities of a prosthodontics dentist.
Dentistry in the US differs from other areas of the world in that independent dental therapists are not permitted to practice in the country. The American Dentists Association maintains regulations that even routine fillings and cleanings must be performed by professional private practices, which has led to high quality, but also high priced, dental care. As a result, dental care has become somewhat of a luxury to lower classes in the United States, with government sponsored health programs neglecting dental care in their plans.
Here are some of the different career paths a dentist can take after education:
- Private Practice (General Dentistry): One of the most common paths dentists take after education is to pursue a broad field in general dentistry. Such a career often entails a private practice and a number of specialties not limited to a specific field.
- Academics: Dentistry can also be taught in an academic environment. Dental education involves not only extensive knowledge of the field, but also skills in interacting with colleagues and students. Activities include teaching in labs and clinics, leading research, and administration of staff.
- Dental Assistants: Dental assistants work under the dentist, performing more of the menial tasks and duties of dentistry under his/her supervision. Training can be obtained with brief education, or even on the job.
- Dental Hygienists: Similar to assistants, hygienists provide basic care for the patient under the dentists’ supervision. However, they require a higher education than assistants and thus undertake more responsibilities at the job than an assistant.
Dentistry is an expansive and competitive field in the U.S., with limited opportunities for education. In 2003, only 4,440 students successfully graduated as a result of the expenses of dental education that isn’t subsidized by the government. However, it is also a very rewarding career and experience and often ranks as one of the best jobs available in the United States.