Does a shiny white smile excite you? Does your head spin with elation at the whirring sound of automatic toothbrushes? Do you believe that flossing is the cure to all evils? If so, then a dental career may be the perfect fit for you.
Dentists evaluate, diagnose, prevent, and treat all diseases and disorders of the oral cavity (mouth) and adjacent bodily structures. They’re the professionals you seek if you have a nagging toothache, a gaping overbite, or sensitive gums. And with numerous existing specialty fields, a career in dentistry can be exciting, adventurous and quite unique. Here are 10 dental career paths that any dental student or job seeker contemplating a toothsome new profession will want to look into:
- General dentistry
General dentists are the mouth’s equivalent of the general practitioner: they examine and treat adults, performing routine procedures such as filling cavities and root canals. General dentists must hold comprehensive knowledge of the entire field, to refer patients to specialists for specific treatments, should the need arise.
- Pediatric dentistry
Pediatric dentists care for the oral health of children, from infancy through adolescence. In this field, creativity, patience, and a sense of humor are absolute musts, as is the ability to work on a smaller scale – inside tiny mouths.
- Dental research
Dental researchers are at the forefront of all new and innovative oral developments. Working in a laboratory setting, they formulate studies and examine findings to determine treatments that benefit the public and makes dentists’ lives easier on a daily basis.
- Oral surgeon
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons train alongside other medical residents, garnering expertise with respect to the surgical treatment of the hard and soft tissues of the face, mouth and jaws, including extractions and manipulations. They are also the only dentists able to administer general anesthesia.
Visiting an orthodontist seems like a right of passage for many adolescents, who crave the metallic look and feel of braces, but shudder at the thought of being fitted for a head gear. The orthodontist assesses patients’ needs for corrective appliances, outfitting them and providing routine maintenance until each smiling face is aligned and pleased.
Endodontists are soft inner tissue (pulp) specialists. It is their job to accurately diagnose and treat the most difficult inner tissue conditions, and perform the more complicated root canal procedures general dentists shy away from.
As “smile architects,” prosthodontists restore and replace lost or damaged teeth. This specialty requires an in-depth understanding of the myriad of functional and aesthetic elements that make up a correct toothy grin, including the gums, lips, and adjacent facial features.
- Dental pathology
While mostly a research position, dental pathology is an exciting field, within which professionals specialize in the microscopic, radiologic and clinical diagnoses of pathologic oral and maxillofacial conditions. Dental pathologists perform biopsies, which, upon examination, lead to diagnoses and decisions regarding courses of treatment.
- Public health dentistry
Public health dentists study the population to determine policy, prevention, and treatment courses that will benefit communities at large. The goal of the public health dentist is to promote oral health and prevent disease.
Periodontists are gum specialists. It is their job to make sure your gums are healthy, and treat them when they are not, treating inflammations and performing minor gum surgery if necessary. True dental “Jedi,” periodontists are trained in using lasers to graft gums, restore smiles and place dental implants within the jaw.
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