What is a Dentist?

A dentist specializes in diagnosing, preventing, and treating conditions affecting the teeth, gums, and mouth. Dentists play a vital role in promoting oral health and hygiene, as well as addressing dental issues to maintain the overall well-being of their patients. They perform routine dental exams, cleanings, and X-rays to assess the condition of the teeth and gums, identifying and treating cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems, and providing guidance on proper oral hygiene practices and dietary habits.

In addition to preventive care, dentists also offer a wide range of dental treatments and procedures to restore or enhance the function and appearance of the teeth and mouth. This may include filling cavities, performing root canals, extracting teeth, placing dental implants, and fitting crowns, bridges, or dentures. Dentists may also collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as orthodontists, oral surgeons, and periodontists, to provide comprehensive care for their patients.

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What does a Dentist do?

A dentist checking a patient's mouth.

Duties and Responsibilities
Dentists have a wide range of duties and responsibilities aimed at promoting oral health and providing comprehensive dental care to their patients. Some of the key responsibilities of dentists include:

  • Diagnosing Oral Health Conditions: Dentists conduct thorough examinations of patients' teeth, gums, and mouth to assess their oral health status. They use various diagnostic tools and techniques, such as X-rays, visual inspections, and patient histories, to identify dental issues such as cavities, gum disease, oral infections, and abnormalities.
  • Preventive Care: Dentists emphasize the importance of preventive dental care to their patients and provide guidance on proper oral hygiene practices, including brushing, flossing, and diet. They perform routine cleanings, fluoride treatments, and dental sealants to help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems.
  • Treatment Planning: Based on their diagnosis, dentists develop individualized treatment plans tailored to each patient's oral health needs and goals. They discuss treatment options with patients, explain procedures, and address any concerns or questions to ensure informed decision-making and patient satisfaction.
  • Restorative Procedures: Dentists perform a variety of restorative procedures to repair or replace damaged or missing teeth and restore oral function and aesthetics. This may include filling cavities, performing root canals, placing crowns or bridges, and fitting dentures or dental implants.
  • Oral Surgery: Dentists may perform minor oral surgery procedures, such as tooth extractions, wisdom tooth removal, and gum surgery, to address complex dental issues and improve oral health outcomes.
  • Cosmetic Dentistry: Some dentists offer cosmetic dental services to enhance the appearance of patients' smiles. This may include teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, dental bonding, and orthodontic treatments such as braces or clear aligners.
  • Patient Education: Dentists educate patients about the importance of oral health, the consequences of poor oral hygiene, and the benefits of preventive and restorative dental care. They provide guidance on maintaining healthy habits and offer personalized advice to address specific dental concerns.
  • Collaboration and Referrals: Dentists collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as orthodontists, oral surgeons, periodontists, and medical doctors, to provide comprehensive care for their patients. They may also refer patients to specialists for specialized treatments or procedures outside their scope of practice.

Types of Dentists
There are several types of dentists, each with their own area of focus and specialization. Some of the most common types of dentists include:

  • Endodontists: An endodontist focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries affecting the dental pulp and roots of the teeth. They perform root canal therapy, endodontic surgery, and other specialized procedures to save damaged teeth and alleviate dental pain.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and abnormalities affecting the mouth, jaws, face, and neck. They perform a wide range of surgical procedures, including tooth extractions, corrective jaw surgery, facial trauma reconstruction, and dental implant placement.
  • Orthodontists: Orthodontists focus on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of misaligned teeth and jaws. They use braces, aligners, and other orthodontic appliances to correct bite problems, improve dental aesthetics, and enhance overall oral health.
  • Periodontists: Periodontists specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of gum diseases and other conditions affecting the supporting structures of the teeth, including the gums and bones. They perform procedures such as scaling and root planing, gum grafting, and dental implant placement to restore and maintain optimal periodontal health.
  • Prosthodontists: Prosthodontists focus on the restoration and replacement of missing teeth and oral structures. They design and fit dental prostheses such as crowns, bridges, dentures, and dental implants to improve oral function, aesthetics, and overall quality of life for their patients.
  • Veterinary Dentists: Veterinary dentists focus on the dental care and treatment of animals, rather than humans. While both veterinary dentists and human dentists share similarities in their profession, such as diagnosing, preventing, and treating dental issues, they work with different patient populations and have distinct areas of expertise.

Are you suited to be a dentist?

Dentists have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also realistic, meaning they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty.

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What is the workplace of a Dentist like?

The workplace of a dentist can vary depending on several factors, including their specialization, practice setting, and personal preferences. Many dentists work in private dental offices or clinics, where they have their own practice or work as part of a group practice with other dental professionals. These offices are typically equipped with dental chairs, examination rooms, X-ray machines, sterilization equipment, and other specialized dental tools and instruments necessary for providing comprehensive dental care to patients.

In addition to private practice settings, dentists may also work in community health centers, hospitals, or academic institutions. Community health centers often serve underserved populations and provide essential dental services to individuals who may not have access to regular dental care. Dentists in hospital settings may collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide dental care to patients with complex medical conditions or special needs. Academic institutions may employ dentists as educators, researchers, or administrators, where they teach dental students, conduct research studies, or oversee dental residency programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pros and Cons of Being a Dentist

Becoming a dentist can be a rewarding career choice, but like any profession, it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons of being a dentist:

Pros

  • Job Stability and Demand: Dentistry is a stable and in-demand profession, as people will always need dental care. The growing aging population and increased awareness of oral health contribute to a steady demand for dental services, providing dentists with job security and opportunities for growth.
  • High Earning Potential: Dentists typically earn competitive salaries, and many have the potential to earn a high income, especially those who own their own practices or specialize in lucrative areas such as orthodontics or oral surgery.
  • Opportunity for Independence: Many dentists have the opportunity to own and operate their own dental practices, giving them a sense of independence and control over their professional lives. Owning a practice allows dentists to set their own schedules, choose their own patients, and make decisions about the direction of their business.
  • Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: Dentistry offers flexibility in terms of work hours and schedules, allowing dentists to balance their professional and personal lives. Many dentists have the option to work part-time or to arrange their schedules in a way that accommodates family obligations and other interests.

Cons

  • Educational Debt: Becoming a dentist requires a significant investment of time and money in education and training. Many dentists graduate with substantial student loan debt, which can take years to pay off and may limit financial flexibility, especially early in their careers.
  • Work-Related Stress: Dentistry can be physically and emotionally demanding, especially when dealing with challenging cases or difficult patients. Dentists may experience stress related to long hours, high patient volumes, and the pressure to provide high-quality care while managing administrative responsibilities.
  • Risk of Occupational Hazards: Dentists may be exposed to occupational hazards such as infectious diseases, radiation from X-rays, and musculoskeletal injuries from performing repetitive tasks or maintaining awkward postures for extended periods.
  • Professional Liability: Like all healthcare professionals, dentists face the risk of malpractice lawsuits and professional liability claims. Even with meticulous care and attention to detail, dentists may encounter situations where patients are dissatisfied with their treatment outcomes, leading to legal disputes and financial repercussions.

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Doctor Specializations and Degrees

The following is a comprehensive list of the various specializations that a doctor can pursue and a brief summary of each specialization:

  • Allergist: An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and related conditions. Allergists have specialized training in the recognition and management of allergic reactions.
  • Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic.
  • Cardiologist: A cardiologist specializes in finding, treating, and preventing diseases that affect the heart, the arteries, and the veins.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon: A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in surgical procedures inside the thorax (the chest), which may involve the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of these organs.
  • Chiropractic Neurologist: A chiropractic neurologist is a specialized type of chiropractor who has undergone additional training in the field of neurology. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Chiropractor: A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine. Treatment is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.
  • Colorectal Surgeon: A colorectal surgeon specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. These surgeons work closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
  • Doctor: An general overview of what a doctor does and how to become one.
  • Dentist: Dentists identify potential oral health issues such as gum disease, as well as examine patients, order medical tests and determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. They also perform oral surgery and remove teeth or address other dental health problems.
  • Dermatologist: A dermatologist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting skin, hair, sweat and oil glands, nails, and mucus membranes (inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids) which can include cancer.
  • Emergency Medicine Physician: An emergency medicine physician works in emergency departments, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, and is often the first medical professional that patients see when they are in need of urgent medical care.
  • Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing conditions and diseases related to the glands and hormones. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for conditions and diseases directly related to glands and hormones they will typically send a patient to an endocrinologist.
  • Family Practitioner: A family practitioner specializes in caring for the entire family. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
  • Forensic Pathologist: A forensic pathologist investigates the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths, and is able to determine how a person died by performing an autopsy and studying tissue and laboratory results. These doctors are often called upon to provide evidence in court regarding the cause and time of such deaths.
  • Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
  • Geriatrician: A geriatrician specializes in the care of elderly patients, and often works with patients who have multiple chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as age-related cognitive and functional impairments.
  • Gynecologist: A gynecologist specializes in women's reproductive systems. Gynecologists are also sometimes certified as obstetricians, and will monitor the health of the mother and the fetus during a pregnancy.
  • Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia and leukemia.
  • Hospitalist: A hospitalist is a physician whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their duties include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
  • Immunologist: An immunologist specializes in managing problems related to the immune system, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. A smaller number of immunologists are strictly researchers seeking to better understand how the immune system works and to help develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions.
  • Infectious Disease Specialist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
  • Internist: An internist is a 'doctor of internal medicine' who can diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness. They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
  • Medical Examiner: Medical examiners are responsible for performing autopsies and collecting evidence related to the circumstances of a death, including medical history, physical examination findings, and toxicology tests.
  • Naturopathic Physician: A naturopathic physician blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The goal is to treat the underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities.
  • Nephrologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. They treat conditions such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney stones, hypertension, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Neurologist: A neurologist specializes in treating diseases that affect the human nervous system. It is a very prestigious and difficult medical specialty due to the complexity of the nervous system, which consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.
  • Neurosurgeon: A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. This includes congenital anomalies, trauma, tumours, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.
  • Obstetrician: An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
  • Occupational Physician: Occupational medicine is focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health.
  • Oncologist: An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three primary types of oncologists are: medical oncologists that specialize in the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells; surgical oncologists that perform surgical procedures to identify and remove cancerous tumors; and radiation oncologists that treat cancer with radiation therapy.
  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye. Due to the complexities and the importance of the eye as a special sense that provides vision, the discipline of ophthalmology is dedicated solely to this organ.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon treats dental and medical problems involving the oral cavity and the maxillofacial area. The maxillofacial area includes the bones of the forehead, face, cheekbones and the soft tissues. Treatment often involves performing surgery and related procedures to treat diseases, defects, or injuries, and to improve function or appearance.
  • Orthopaedic Surgeon / Orthopedist: An orthopaedic surgeon (or orthopedist) examines, diagnoses, and treats diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
  • Orthodontist: An orthodontist specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They help people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion.
  • Osteopath: Osteopaths have attended and graduated from an osteopathic medical school and practise the system of healthcare known as osteopathy. They consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms they exhibit. They see the integrated nature of the body’s organ systems and its capacity for self-regulation and self-healing.
  • Otolaryngologist: Otolaryngologists (or ENT physicians) are specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. These specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery.
  • Pathologist: A pathologist studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.
  • Pediatrician: A pediatrician specializes in providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers by administering treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries.
  • Periodontist: A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in oral inflammation, and who knows how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease.
  • Plastic Surgeon: A plastic surgeon specializes in reshaping healthy body parts for aesthetic reasons, and also in repairing or replacing body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation.
  • Podiatrist: A podiatrist practices podiatric medicine, which is a branch of science devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and study of medical disorders of the foot, ankle, lower leg and lower back. In the U.S. and Canada, podiatry is practiced as a specialty.
  • Prosthodontist: A prosthodontist specializes in restoring the look, function, comfort, and health of a patient's oral cavity with artificial materials. These artificial materials are made up of a wide variety of restorations that include fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and oral implants.
  • Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.
  • Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
  • Radiologist: A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting medical images that may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound.
  • Rheumatologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Sports Medicine Physician: A sports medicine physician specializes in taking care of people who have sports injuries that may be acquired from playing sports, exercising, or from otherwise being physically active.
  • Surgeon: A surgeon performs surgery for the purpose of removing diseased tissue or organs, to repair body systems, or to replace diseased organs with transplants.
  • Telemedicine Physician: A telemedicine physician provides remote healthcare services to patients using telecommunications technology, facilitating virtual consultations, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations.
  • Urologist: A urologist specializes in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Urologists can treat the kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, uterus, and male reproductive organs. There are also specific specialty areas that urologists may choose to focus on, such as pediatric urology, male infertility, and urologic oncology.
  • Vascular Medicine Specialist - A vascular medicine specialist specializes in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels. They may work with patients who have conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, or pulmonary embolism.
  • Vascular Surgeon - A vascular surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels, including aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and varicose veins.
  • Veterinary Dentist - A veterinary dentist is a specialized veterinarian who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of dental diseases and conditions in animals. They perform dental procedures such as cleanings, extractions, and oral surgeries to improve the oral health and well-being of pets and other animals.



Degrees

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See Also
Doctor Allergist Anesthesiologist Cardiologist Cardiothoracic Surgeon Chiropractor Colorectal Surgeon Dermatologist Emergency Medicine Physician Endocrinologist Family Practitioner Forensic Pathologist Gastroenterologist Geriatrician Gynecologist Hematologist Hospitalist Immunologist Infectious Disease Specialist Internist Medical Examiner Naturopathic Physician Nephrologist Neurologist Neurosurgeon Obstetrician Occupational Physician Oncologist Ophthalmologist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Orthopaedic Surgeon Orthopedist Orthodontist Osteopath Otolaryngologist Pathologist Pediatrician Periodontist Plastic Surgeon Podiatrist Prosthodontist Psychiatrist Pulmonologist Radiologist Rheumatologist Sports Medicine Physician Surgeon Urologist Vascular Medicine Specialist Vascular Surgeon Chiropractic Neurologist Veterinary Dentist Telemedicine Physician