To become a general dentist, a person must graduate from dental school and be awarded
either a DDS or a DMD degree:
There is no difference between the degrees. Both dentists have the same education
and completed the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association's
Commission on Dental Accreditation. The difference is merely wording. Some institutions
award a DMD degree, while others award a DDS degree. Generally, 3 or more years of
undergraduate college education plus 4 years of dental school are required to graduate
and become a general dentist. State licensing boards accept either degree as equivalent,
and both degrees allow licensed individuals to practice the same scope of general
More post-graduate training is required to become a dental specialist. A patient often
consults with a dental specialist after referral from his or her general dentist.
Dental/oral health specialists include:
Pediatric dentist. A pediatric dentist works with the oral health care of children, from infancy through
the teenage years. In guiding children and teens through their dental growth and development,
pediatric dentists often work closely with pediatricians, family doctors, and other
dental specialists in providing comprehensive medical and dental care.
Endodontist. Also called pulp specialists, endodontists have undergone specialized training in
root canal therapy. This branch of dentistry is concerned with the morphology, physiology,
and pathology of the human dental pulp (the soft tissue on the interior of the tooth
under both the enamel and the dentin) and periradicular tissues. This includes the
prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are orthopedic facial surgeons responsible for treating
a wide variety of dental problems. This includes the removal of impacted teeth and
reconstructive facial surgery. This dental specialty also includes the diagnosis and
treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects involving both functional and esthetic
aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. Many oral
surgery training programs offer both an oral surgery certificate and a medical degree
in the 6 to 7 year dual training program.
Oral pathologist. Oral pathologists diagnose and manage diseases of the oral and maxillofacial structures
using clinical, microscopic, radiographic and other means.
Public health dentist. Public health dentists help to prevent and control dental diseases on a community-wide
basis. They administer community-based dental health programs and provide dental health
Oral radiologist. Oral radiologists produce and interpret images using radiant energy for the diagnosis
and management of diseases of the oral and maxillofacial area.
Orthodontist. Orthodontists are specially trained dentists who specialize in the development, prevention,
and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite, and jaws. Orthodontists also
have specialized training in facial abnormalities and disorders of the jaw.
Periodontist. Periodontists are responsible for the care and prevention of gum-related diseases,
guided bone regeneration, and dental implants. It is the specialty of dentistry that
includes the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the supporting and
surrounding tissues of the teeth or their substitutes, and the maintenance of the
health, function, and esthetics of these structures and tissues.
Prosthodontist. Prosthodontists are dental specialists who have undergone additional training and
certification in the restoration and replacement of broken teeth or missing teeth
with crowns, bridges, implants, or removable prosthetics (dentures). It is the branch
of dentistry that also specializes in understanding the dynamics of the smile, preserving
a healthy mouth, and creating tooth replacements. Prosthodontists often work closely
with other members of the oral healthcare team in restoring natural teeth, replacing
missing teeth, or developing artificial substitutes for damaged oral and maxillofacial
tissues. In addition, prosthodontists may also have specialized training in the following:
Post oral cancer reconstruction
Jaw joint problems (such as temporomandibular joint disorder)
Traumatic injuries of the mouth
Snoring and sleeping disorders