There exist only a handful of dental specialties. Dental specialists are "recognized in those areas where advanced knowledge and skills are essential to maintain or restore oral health." These dentists have been "formally recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) as meeting the specific requirements for recognition of dental specialist."
There are many areas of dentistry, but not every area of dentistry has dental specialists associated with it. The ADA has stringent guidelines which constitute a dental specialty.
The ADA currently recognizes nine specialty areas in dentistry:
- Public Dental Health
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
- Pediatric Dentistry
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
Once a dental specialty has been approved, the organization that has sponsored the dental specialty establishes a national board for certifying diplomats; this rule is set forth with the "requirement for National Certifying boards for Dental Specialists." This board is solely responsible for outlining curriculum and establishing the programs that enable the specialist accreditation in their area of expertise.
Types of Dental Specialists
The dental specialist spends two or three years in additional training after completing dental school. They get certified to become a specialist after a rigorous process.
The following types of dentists are considered dental specialists:
Endodontists -- Perform root canal therapy or any dental treatment involving the center (pulp chamber) of the tooth.
Oral Surgeon -- Recognized as a specialist for a tooth extraction and oral surgery.
Orthodontist -- The dentist who is responsible for dental braces, and deals primarily with a malocclusion (crooked teeth).
Pedodontist -- Working with the teeth of your toddler definitely requires special skills; the pedodontist is often called a pediatric dentist.
Periodontist -- Provides gum disease treatment for the gums and soft tissue in the mouth; this dentist is usually the specialist called in for a larger cases of dental implants.
Prosthodontist -- This specialist's duties include restorative work, such as dentures, a dental crown or a dental bridge.
Today, more and more dentists are becoming specialized in one area of study, like cosmetic dentistry. The ADA strongly encourages like-minded dentists to come together and study and learn from one another in order to further the discipline. Although cosmetic dentistry is not a specialty for now, it is possible that it could develop into one.
Only your dentist can refer you to a specialist; talk with him or her if you feel you need the care of a dental specialist. If you don't have a dentist, we can help you find one.