Dentists (also known as Doctors of Dental Surgery/DDS or Doctors of Dental
Medicine/DMD) examine, treat and maintain the teeth, gums, and other hard and soft
tissues of the mouth and surrounding structures. They instruct patients about good
oral health practices in order to prevent gum disease and tooth loss. Dentists also treat
patients who have diseases, injuries, or malformations of the teeth, gums, and mouth.
• diagnose oral conditions.
• plan treatment to restore and maintain optimal oral health.
• administer anesthetics.
• locate and fill cavities; treat diseased gums.
• remove teeth that cannot be treated.
• replace missing teeth; fit and provide dentures.
• teach preventive care for teeth and gums.
There are nine recognized dental specialties:
• Endodontists diagnose and treat diseases and injuries of the dental pulp and other
dental tissues that affect the vitality of teeth.
• Oral and maxillofacial radiologists evaluate head, neck and oral radiographs
(X-rays) to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of oral and related disease.
• Oral and maxillofacial surgeons provide a broad range of diagnostic and treatment services for diseases, injuries and defects in the head, neck, face, jaws and
• Oral pathologists study and research the causes and processional effects of diseases
of the mouth.
• Orthodontists treat problems related to crooked teeth, missing teeth and other
abnormalities to establish normal function and appearance.
• Pediatric dentists specialize in treating children from birth through adolescence.
They also treat special handicapped patients beyond the age of adolescence.
• Periodontists diagnose and treat disease of the gums and the bones which support
• Prosthodontists replace missing natural teeth with fixed or removable substitutes
such as dentures, bridges and implants.
• Public health dentists specialize in preventing and controlling dental disease and
promoting dental health through organized community efforts.
Some dentists teach, practice and/or conduct research in schools of dentistry. Others
plan, organize and maintain dental health programs for public health agencies.
Dentists may establish their own practices, become part of dental or medical groups,
or work in hospitals.
Average Salary Range
$105,000 – $210,000
Students intending to pursue a career as a dentist should prepare by taking the most challenging high school courses available in science (especially biology and chemistry), math and English, including advanced
placement courses. Dental school consists of a four-year curriculum. The first two years include basic
and clinical sciences and preclinic laboratory courses. The third and fourth years provide the clinical experience where the students perform dental care on patients. To be accepted by a school of dentistry, a student must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or four years of undergraduate college. In order to practice dentistry in the United
States, every dentist has to successfully pass National Boards, which are given in two parts. Part I deals mainly with basic sciences and is taken after the second year of dental school. Part II deals with different areas of dentistry and is taken in the fourth year of dental school. At the end of the last year of dental school, each dentist must successfully pass a state board licensing exam, where specific dental procedures are performed on patients in a clinic setting.
American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611