About the ODA
Finding the right dentist for you is an important decision, and the ODA has resources to make the process easier.
Care of your teeth and gums may require the attention of a specialist - and in making an informed decision, it helps to know more about what dentistry is - and the various dental specialties that exist.
ADA Definition of Dentistry and Dental Specialties
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.
Education and Training
Dentists receive one of two specific dental degrees: a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) or doctor of dental medicine (DMD). Both are equivalent four-year graduate degrees. In addition, the dentist may opt to continue studies into a specialized area:
- Family (or General) Dentist … Any dentist who does not hold himself or herself out as a specialist.
- Dental Public Health … a form of dental practice that serves the community in an administrative capacity. This area of dentistry works by educating the public on the prevention and control of dental disease, using group dental care programs and applied dental research. This often encompasses state and county branches of health departments.
- Endodontics … the branch of dentistry concerned with tooth pulp disease. Its study and practice covers the basic structure, functions and diseases of the inner structure of the tooth, consisting of nerve and blood vessels.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology … the specialty of dentistry and study of diseases that deal with the oral and maxillofacial regions - they read biopsies. This area of practice includes research and diagnosis of diseases using a variety of techniques.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery … the specialty of dentistry which includes the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries and defects involving both the everyday use and beauty aspects of the mouth area.
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics … the branch of dentistry concerned with correcting abnormally aligned or positioned teeth. Major considerations of orthodontics include the diagnosis, prevention, interception and treatment of the faulty movement of teeth.
- Pediatric Dentistry … the specialty of dentistry focusing on preventative and therapeutic oral health care needs for infants, children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs.
- Periodontics … the dental specialty covering the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease.
- Prosthodontics … the branch of dentistry focusing on the restoration and maintenance of missing teeth by bridges and dentures.
Other Helpful Information
As with any process or procedure that affects you personally, there should be a level of comfort with the person providing your dental care - and if you are new to a community, finding the new dentist who is right for your needs and family is important. The following tips may help:
- Ask your former dentist for a recommendation if you are moving to a new area.
- Contact the local dental society in your community.
- Check with your physician for a recommendation.
- You can verify licensure record of any dentist with the Ohio State Dental Board.
- Use the American Dental Association's Find a Dentist service. Simply fill out and submit your request and the ADA will respond with names of member dentists in your area or specialty requested. Member dentists subscribe to the profession's Code of Ethics.
Once you have selected a dentist, you will want to call or visit the office to determine:
- Are office hours conducive to your work and home demands?
- Is the dentist close to home or work?
- Is the staff pleasant and office efficient?
- Is there an after hours emergency contact?
- What are the financial and payment policies of the practice?