We use it basically all day, every
day. We use it to show affection, to eat, and to speak. I am talking about the
mouth and more specifically the teeth. Teeth are extremely important and
without the proper care of them, they can waste away. Eating can become a chore
instead of something to enjoy. We only get one permanent set of teeth and they
last more than a lifetime! These incredible things about teeth is part of why I
am pursuing a career in dentistry. The scope of dentistry is wide and far as
there are 9 specialties. This paper focuses on general dentistry because all
specialties require obtaining a Doctoral of Dental Surgery, D.D.S. first.
A general dentist is responsible for the maintenance
of oral health. They diagnose issues within the teeth that compromise the
patient’s oral health such as decay, fractures, and deep grooves on the molars.
A dentist provides and executes treatment plans to terminate those issues such
as fillings, extractions, root canals, and sealants. Dentists administer local
anesthetic during these procedures so that patients are pain free and antibiotics
can also be prescribed to help alleviate any bacterial infections. They also
give advice on proper dental care to prevent future problems, such as how to
correctly brush and floss teeth in order to prevent cavities and tooth decay
and Professional Association:
It is not necessary to major in science to get into
dental school, though it does give applicants a higher chance of getting into
dental school due to the rigorous science courses that are taken during the
first year in dental school. Although a college undergraduate degree (BS/BA) is
recommended, it is not necessary. Pre-dental science requirements vary from
school to school, but it generally includes 8 hours of Biology with lab, 8
hours of Physics with lab, 8 hours of General Chemistry with lab, and 8 hours
of Organic Chemistry with lab. Most dental schools take 4 years, but there are
a few that are only 3 years because they offer an accelerated curriculum. In
order to apply to dental school, the DAT (Dental Admissions Test) must be
taken. In dental school, the National Board Dental Examinations must be taken
(Part I and Part II) to become board certified. There is a basic science
portion, followed by a clinical examination. However, dental licensing varies
from state to state. In Texas, the Western Region Examining Board, WREB, is
taken to be able to become a licensed dentist in Texas and most western states.
The total cost of attendance for the three dental schools in Texas is about
$230,000 for all four years. In order to specialize, residency must be
completed after dental school along with a special state exam. Most specialties
take 3 to 5 years, including residency and the cost of attendance varies on the
program. The anticipated salary will be discussed later. There are certainly a
lot of resources available for dentists and there is a big dental community
working to improve patient care.
The largest dental association is the American Dental
Association. This organization is made up of over 161,000 dental members, with
a 480-member House of Delegates. The purpose of this organization is to help
progress the dental profession on all levels from research on oral health
products to creating programs that reach out to the underserved communities and
services for quality patient care.
In a dental office, there are typically a few dental
hygienists and dental assistants. The dentist is responsible for evaluating the
patient and performing advanced dental procedures such as fillings in which the
dental assistant takes part of by handling tools such as suction and water. The
dental hygienists are responsible for examining the overall health of the gums
and perform cleanings that are supposed to take place every 6 months and work
to prevent cavities. The dental
hygienists are also responsible for taking X-rays of the teeth to ensure they
are healthy. The dentist examines the x-rays for any abnormalities such as
tooth decay. If tooth decay shows up on the x-ray, there are a few questions a
dentist will ask.
the patient experiencing any discomfort? If so, what kind and how much?
far has the tooth decay spread?
the patient exposed to any risk factors and what is the likelihood of
The first question can be tackled by simply asking the
patient if they have experienced any sensitivity to hot or cold food as well as
anything sweet. If the pain lasts only for a little while after exposure to the
source, or if the pain lasts only during exposure to the source, then the pain
is likely due to sensitivity of the tooth due to lack of a strong enamel. This
can be tackled by applying vitamins to the teeth to help strengthen the enamel
surface or by prescribing toothpaste that helps conquer sensitivity such as
Sensodyne. If the pain lingers after exposure to the source, then that is a
good sign that tooth decay is present and further measurements need to be
be taken to confirm that a cavity is present or absent and also to assess the
spread of the decay, which is the second question. Depending if the tooth decay
is on the surface of the tooth enamel, has progressed into the dentin or even
into the pulp depends on whether a filling, crown, or root canal would be
needed, respectively. Depending on the dentists approach, some are more
conservative than others, a different treatment plan may be offered, but the
diagnosis will remain the same.
The third question comes into play when there is a
patient who has a history of tooth decay and bad oral hygiene habits. If so,
the patient is at higher risk for reinfection and may not be as good a
candidate for a root canal and other treatment options such as extraction and
implant may be considered. Other factors can take place for higher risk of
reinfection such as genetics, some patients are born with weak teeth and lack
the necessary resources, making them more susceptible to reinfection. Such
things need to be taken into consideration when creating the right treatment
plan for each patient. That is why even though the diagnosis on two patients is
the same, the treatment plan can differ.
There are several important journals
used by practitioners in this field, a few of which will be annotated below.
The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) (jada.ada.org) has been around since 1913.
This journal has monthly issues which include peer-reviewed information
relevant to the dental profession and dental science. Aside from the usual
peer-reviewed research, there is also clinical information available in
specific areas such as pharmacology, biomaterials, and esthetic dentistry.
Reports are also available on the association between dental health and one’s
overall well-being. The site also contains news over current issues and legal
topics. A continuing education program is offered, making it clear that the
main audience target is dentists in clinical practice. You can search for
specific topics in the search bar or just browse through the monthly issues.
The issues are organized by research, case reports, and news so it makes it
easier to search for specific studies or news. They also have a Twitter and
Facebook account to send out information on the latest news as well to keep in
touch with the readers and dental community.
The Journal of Dental Education (JDE) (www.jdentaled.org) takes a different focus by publishing information
that covers educational research to help advance dental education. The monthly
journals also contain peer-reviewed scientific dental research, but the
targeted audience is those in academic dentistry instead of clinical practice.
The topics covered include curriculum reform, education research methods,
innovative educational and assessment methodologies, community-based dental
education, professional and educational ethics, and dental education around the
world. It is important to take interest into the academic side of dentistry
because without proper education, one cannot move on to the clinical practice.
A dentist, and any health care professional for that matter, is a lifelong
learner. Some dentists choose to later retire their clinical practice and move
onto the educational side by becoming a part of faculty at dental school. This
is something I have thought about doing because it is incredibly important to
me to educate others about oral health and its importance.
The Journal of Dental Research (JDR) (journals.sagepub.com/home/jdr) is
a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Unlike the others, this journal focuses
solely on scientific information related to dentistry and the oral cavity as
well as associated diseases. Like the others, there are monthly issues so that
the latest research in the oral community can be circulated. Research topic
covered include dental, oral, and craniofacial sciences. Biomaterial and
bioengineering sections are also available. Some dentists choose to focus on
the research side of dentistry instead of the clinical side, so this journal
would be of great interest.
Though there are several more great journals that
dentists utilize, I chose to cover the three above because I wanted to make
clear that a dentist doesn’t necessarily have to go into clinical practice.
There are still other aspects to dentistry such as education and hard research.
Some dentists start with one focus and then shift gears to another, or can
divide their time into more than one area of dentistry.
PubMed Health (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) is an important database in the field. This database
contains information for both clinicians and patients. There are articles that
cover prevention of specific diseases and others that discuss treatment for the
conditions. This database focusses on reviews of clinical effectiveness
research, which is useful to dentists who are practicing clinicians. As for the
patients, there are summaries over the clinical research available that are
easy to interpret. The great thing about this database is that it covers a wide
variety of topics related to health. It is important for dentist to be
conscious of the patient’s overall well-being. A dentist should be well-versed
on any conditions that the patient may have and how those conditions could
possibly impact their oral health.
(www.cochranelibrary.com) is another great database relevant to dentistry
because it contains systematic reviews in health care. The systematic reviews
go through a long editorial process to ensure that developing evidence is sound
and reliable so that the decision-making process can be properly guided.
Apart from journals and databases,
there are also websites that serve as an important resource for health care
professionals. Below I will cover five websites that a dentist may turn to
throughout their career.
Dental Health: Medline Plus (https://www.medlineplus.gov/dentalhealth.html) is a great source for dentists to refer to their
patients. As a dentist I feel that their responsibility goes beyond ensuring
the patient is healthy, they also have a responsibility to educate their
patients. This site contains easy to follow information on how to keep good
oral hygiene and covers specific topics such as child dental health, cosmetic
dentistry, dentures, gum disease, orthodontia, and tooth decay.
Mouth Healthy (www.mouthhealthy.org) is a site that is actually a part of the American
Dental Association. This site breaks down the development of teeth and
associated diseases by categorizing them into different life stages such as
pregnancy, babies, teen, adults, etc. There is also a tab available for ADA
products that are also categorized. This site is designed for consumers to be
better informed on how to keep a healthy mouth by understanding oral hygiene
and how factors such as your toothbrush and nutrition can have an impact.
Health Policy Institute (www.ada.org/en/science-research/health-policy-institute) is another site that is provided by the American
Dental Association. This site serves as a reliable source of information for
important policy knowledge relevant to the dental care system in the United
States. One thing I had not considered when thinking about entering the world
of dentistry was politics. The dental care sector on the health reform has an
impact on health care providers and advocates so this site is important for
keeping up to date on such policy.
American Dental Education
is a website whose purpose is to guide those in the education community on reports
of current issues that influence education, research, and oral health care. There
are several dental schools that are associated as well as dental education
programs and corporations.
American Student Dental Association
(https://www.asdanet.org/) is a site for dental students that are both a part
of the American Student Dental Association or students that have not yet gotten
into dental schools. There are programs and conferences that allow dental
students from all over to connect and develop organizational and leadership
skills to be leaders in all areas of the dental community like research and
education. Also, there are supportive programs that are important to be a part
Above is the abstract of an article
that may be of interest to a dentist. There are many great sources to refer to
when in question about something as well as when wanting to keep up to date on
the latest treatment options and biotechnology involved. There is so much that
goes into dentistry other than the mechanical work of doing fillings and
Though the numbers look daunting for attending dental
school, approximately $230,000, it is important to keep in mind that the
student debt is manageable. If it was not manageable, we would not have so many
dentists. According to the bureau of labor and statistics, the median pay in
2016 for a general dentist was $159,770 a year, which is about $77 an hour. The
median pay in 2016 for both an orthodontist and oral and maxillofacial surgeon
was $208,000 or more. I think it is important to look at the numbers because a
career in dentistry is definitely an investment that takes a lot time, money,
and effort. From personal experience shadowing dentists, paying off student
debt can take anywhere from five to ten years. It takes a few years to pay off
student debt, just as any big investment such as a house would. It is a
lifelong career so before starting on the long journey to becoming a dentist,
one needs to be certain that is the right job for them.
According to the American Dental Association, dentists
are doctors who specialize in oral health. The most common job duties include
diagnosing oral diseases, administering anesthetics during surgical procedures
of the oral cavity, creating treatment plan to promote oral health, and
monitoring the development of the teeth and jaws. However, dentists’ area of
expertise extends beyond the teeth and gums. A dentist is also responsible for
learning about the muscles of the head, neck and jaw as well as the nervous
system involved with the head and neck. During a comprehensive examine, the
dentist also examines the head and neck areas for any abnormalities such as
lumps, ulcerations, and discolorations. Dentists are trained to spot any
warning signs for other diseases in the body that are presented in the mouth.
It takes a lot of training and
skills practice to become a dentist, from learning hardcore science principles
in school to enhancing fine motor skills during clinical practice. Dental
students learn under what is called evidence-based practice. The skills learned
in this course to search for and find specific information, how to utilize
legitimate resources such as databases and systemic reviews, and how to tell if
a study is biased will most definitely be incorporated in the dentistry field.
Student Dental Association- ASDA, retrieved
December 10, 2017, from http://www.asdanet.org
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2016 Edition, Dentists, (visited October 28,
“Cochrane Library.” Editorial, www.cochranelibrary.com/
Dentists – What do Dentists do? (n.d.). Retrieved
December 12, 2017, from https://www.studentscholarships.org/salary/473/dentists.php#sthash.mByjb0V7.dpbs
Policy Institute, www.ada.org/en/science-research/health-policy-institute
“IADR Journal of Dental Research.” IADR Home, www.iadr.org/IADR/Publications/JDR
Jada.ada.org-The Journal of the American Dental
Association. (n.d.) Retrieved December 5,
, from http://www.jada.ada.org
Journal of Dental Education. (n.d.) Retrieved December
5, 2017, from http://www.jdentaled.org/
“MouthHealthy- Oral Health – American Dental
Association.” Mouth Healthy TM, www.mouthhealthy.org/.
“National Center for Biotechnology Information.” National Center for Biotechnology
Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/.