Finding Your Specialty

Finding Your Specialty

“Finding your specialty”, what does that mean?  In the dental field it can mean the difference between a long successful career or and I don’t-want-to-get-up-in-the-morning-and-go-to-work career.  There are several different fields to choose from.  How do you choose the right one for you?  First, let’s talk about the different specialties out there.

General Dentistry.  This is the most common, and this is what they call the bread and butter type practice.  Your general dentist usually, I say usually because there are so many general dentists that will practice some type of specialty also.  Perhaps they have taken CE courses, but in general they practice using procedures such as fillings, crown & bridge, basic extractions, some endo, some cosmetic, annual exams and cleanings.  This type of dentistry gives the Dr. a wide range of procedures.  The Dr. is able to utilize these skills and may feel more challenged and less bored.  Four years of dental school is required after college.

Endodontic Dentistry:  This field is strictly root canal therapy, the phrase that everyone seems to grimace at.  You either love performing root canals or hate it.  Endodontic dentistry requires patients and an exception eye for detail.It is the dental specialty concerned with the study and treatment of the dental pulp. Endodontists perform a variety of procedures including endodontic therapy (commonly known as "root canal therapy"), endodontic retreatment, surgery, treating cracked teeth, and treating dental trauma. Root canal therapy is one of the most common procedures. If the dental pulp(containing nerves, arterioles, venules, lymphatic tissue, and fibrous tissue) becomes diseased or injured, endodontic treatment is required to save the tooth. General Dentists can focus on performing endo procedures or 2 years of additional dental school is needed to become a specialist.

 Prosthetic Dentistry:  This dentist specializes in dentures, partials and appliances etc.  There are a lot of measurements, impressions and try-ins in this field.  Again, a keen eye for detail is needed to achieve a perfect fit and appearance.  According to the American College of Prosthodontists, a prosthodontist is a dentist who:[2]

  • Specializes in the aesthetic (cosmetic) restoration and replacement of teeth.
  • Receives three to four years of additional training after dental school.
  • Restores optimum appearance and function to your smile. The treatment planning and                restoration of implants, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and rehabilitation of occlusion with prostheses all fall under the field of prosthodontics.

Pediatric Dentistry: Aww the children. This is a great field because you’re able to practice general dentistry on a smaller level, with smaller chairs.  There are no root canals on primary teeth however, there are pulpotomies, stainless steel crowns, space maintainers and perhaps some orthodontics involved.  The stress level is much different than that of working with adults.  You have a lot of frightened children that can be hard to manage.  Methods of behavior control include oral sedation, nitrous, chairside control or even under general anesthetic in the hospital.  The bottom line is you have to have a love for children and have an easy-going chairside manner and be confident in your abilities.

Oral Surgery:  If you have a love for oral surgery this might be the specialized field for you. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a regional specialist surgeon treating the entire cranio-maxillofacial complex: anatomical area of the mouth, jaws, face, skull, as well as associated structures. Depending upon the jurisdiction, maxillofacial surgeons may require training in dentistry, surgery, and general medicine; training and qualification in medicine may be undertaken optionally even if not required. They also may choose to undergo further training in a 1 or 2 year subspecialty. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Fellowship Training in the following areas:

  • Head and neck cancer – microvascular reconstruction;
  • Cosmetic facial surgery
  • Craniofacial surgery/Pediatric Maxillofacial surgery/Cleft Surgery
  • Cranio-maxillofacial trauma
  • Head and neck reconstruction (plastic surgery of the head and neck region)

Maxillofacial regeneration (reformation of the facial region by advanced stem cell technique)

In general, about 12-14 years of training is needed so a willingness for a lengthy education is needed.

Orthodontic Dentistry:  This specialty deals with the alignment and movement of your teeth and bite corrections.  Most of the patients for an orthodontist are children but adult orthodontics is becoming increasingly more common as adults make the decision to improve their smile. Additional components—including removable appliances ("plates"), headgear, expansion appliances, and many other devices—may also be used to move teeth and jaw bones. Functional appliances, for example, are used in growing patients (age 5 to 14) with the aim of modifying the jaw dimensions and relationship if these are altered. Orthodontics was the first recognized specialty field within dentistry. Many countries have their own systems for training and registering orthodontic specialists. A two- to four-year period of full-time post-graduate study is required for a dentist to qualify as an orthodontist.

 Cosmetic Dentistry:  Cosmetic dentistry focuses on the aesthetics of teeth and the appearance of a smile.  Cosmetic dentists can do general dentist procedures but mainly focus on veneers, crowns and bridges.  Cosmetic dentistry may involve:

  • The addition of a dental material to teeth or gums – examples: bonding, porcelain veneers (laminates), crowns (caps), gum grafts
  • Removal of tooth structure or gums – examples: enameloplasty, gingivectomy
  • Neither adding nor removing dental materials, tooth structure, or gums – examples: teeth whitening (bleaching), gum depigmentation
  • Straightening of teeth accompanied by improvement in appearance of face – orthodontics

According to US News & World Report, The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth of 21% for dentists between 2010 and 2020 for dentists.

Til Next Time,

Judy & Terry