Dentistry is an exciting, complex field. Did you know that there are 9 dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association? They are dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, and prosthodontics. Whew! As a dental assistant, you have some flexibility to choose what kind of dentist or dental specialist you want to work with. If you decide to work with a specialist, specialized knowledge and skills and additional education may be required. Read below to learn more about the different types of dental specialties, and how dental assistants play a key role. All definitions come from https://www.ada.org/en/ncrdscb/dental-specialties/specialty-definitions.
1. Dental Public Health
According to the ADA, dental public health is "the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community efforts." As someone who works in dental public health, the community is your patient instead of an individual. Dental public health officials work on educating the public, conducting dental research, and working to prevent/control dental diseases on a community level.
Endodontics is the dental specialty which is concerned with the morphology, biology, physiology, pathology and regeneration of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues. Endodontists often perform procedures such as root canals on patients. Therefore, as a dental assistant, there are plenty of opportunities to work alongside an endodontist.
3. Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
Oral pathology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of pathology that deals with the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. It is a science that investigates the causes, processes, and effects of these diseases. This specialty is very lab- and research-based.
4. Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
Oral and maxillofacial radiology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of radiology concerned with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by all modalities of radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region. This specialty is X-ray and research-based.
5. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Oral and maxillofacial surgery is the specialty of dentistry which includes the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries and defects involving both the functional and esthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. Oral surgeons perform a variety of procedures on patients, and dental assistants are a key part of their practice.
Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics is the dental specialty that includes the diagnosis, prevention, interception, and correction of malocclusion, as well as neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities of the developing or mature orofacial structures. Dental assistants help greatly with the day-to-day tasks of orthodontics, and this is another great specialty for dental assistants to work in.
7. Pediatric Dentistry
Pediatric Dentistry is an age-defined specialty that provides both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs. Pediatric dentists also require a great deal of support for dental assistants. If you enjoy being around kids, it could be very rewarding to work as a dental assistant under a pediatric dentist.
Periodontics is the specialty of dentistry which encompasses 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. Periodontists work with patients' gums and supporting tissues in procedures such as dental implants. As such, they need lots of help from dental assistants, and periodontics is another great option to work in as a dental assistant.
Prosthodontics is the dental specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes. Prosthodontists focus on the restoration and replacement of missing or damaged teeth with artificial devices, such as implants, crowns, bridges, and dentures. As you may have guessed, prosthodontists also rely heavily on dental assistants.
As you can see, the field of dentistry is large and dynamic, with lots to learn and plenty of possibilities for further education and specialization. Dental assistants, as a crucial part of the dental practice, can play an important role in a number of different dental specialties. If any of this sounds interesting to you, fill out our contact form! An exciting new career as a dental assistant awaits you.