Dentistry & Dental Specialties

Dentistry is defined as the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment (nonsurgical, surgical or related procedures) of diseases, disorders and/or conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and/or the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body; provided by a dentist, within the scope of his/her education, training and experience, in accordance with the ethics of the profession and applicable law.

Special Areas of Dental Practice Defined

There are overlapping responsibilities among the recognized areas of dental practice. However, as a matter of principle, a specialist should not routinely perform procedures that are beyond the scope of that particular specialty.

In the state of Illinois, the law requires that a dentist hold a specialty license in a recognized specialty in order to be acknowledged as a specialist in that area of dental practice. The Illinois Dental Practice Act presently licenses six dental specialties

  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics

While the American Dental Association formally recognizes three additional specialty areas of dental practice Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Dental Public Health, and Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology these currently are not licensed specialties in the state of Illinois.

Endodontics is the branch of dentistry concerned with the morphology, physiology and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues. Its study and practice encompass the basic and clinical sciences including biology of the normal pulp, the etiology, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions. (Adopted by ADA, December 1983)

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is the specialty of dentistry that includes the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries and defects involving both the functional and esthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. (Adopted by ADA, October 1990)

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics is that area of dentistry concerned with the supervision, guidance and correction of the growing or mature dentofacial structures, including those conditions that require movement of teeth or correction of malrelationships and malformations of their related structures and the adjustment of relationships between and among teeth and facial cones by the application of forces and/or the stimulation and redirection of functional forces within the craniofacial complex. Major responsibilities of orthodontic practice include the diagnosis, prevention, interception and treatment of all forms of malocclusion of the teeth and associated alterations in their surrounding structures; the design, application and control of functional and corrective appliances; and the guidance of the dentition and its supporting structures to attain and maintain optimum occlusal relationships in physiologic and esthetic harmony among facial and cranial structures. (Definition Adopted by ADA, December 1980) (Designation Adopted b y ADA, October 1994)

Pediatric Dentistry is an age-defined specialty that provides both primary and comprehensive preventative and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs.(Adopted by ADA, 1995)

Periodontics is that specialty of dentistry encompassing the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth or their substitutes and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. (Adopted by ADA, December 1992)

Prosthodontics is that branch of dentistry pertaining to the restoration and maintenance of oral functions, comfort, appearance and health of the patient by the restoration of natural teeth and/or the replacement of missing teeth and contiguous oral and maxillofacial tissues with artificial substitutes. (Adopted by ADA, May 1976)

Dental Public Health is the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community efforts. It is that form of dental practice that serves the community as a patient rather than the individual. It is concerned with the dental health education of the public, with applied dental research, and with the administration of group dental care programs as well as the prevention and control of dental diseases on a community basis. (Adopted by ADA, May 1976)

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of pathology that deals with the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. It is a science that investigates the causes, processes, and effects of these diseases. The practice of oral pathology includes research and diagnosis of diseases using clinical, radiographic, microscopic, biochemical, or other examinations. (Adopted by ADA, May 1991)

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of radiology concerned with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by all modalities of radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region. (Adopted by ADA, April 2001)

DDS vs. DMD

A DDS denotes doctor of dental surgery, while DMD denotes doctor of dental medicine. These indicate the degree awarded upon graduation from dental school to become a general dentist. There is no difference between the two degrees; dentists who have a DMD or DDS have the same education. Universities have the prerogative to determine what degree is awarded. Both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation. Generally, three or more years of undergraduate education plus four years of dental school is required to graduate and become a general dentist. State licensing boards accept either degree as equivalent, and both degrees allow licensed individuals to practice the same scope of general dentistry. Additional post-graduate training is required to become a dental specialist, such as an orthodontist, periodontist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.



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