Dental Specialties

DentalPost takes a look at what specialties a Dentist can pursue.

Pursuing a specialist role in dentistry can offer rewarding opportunities at any stage of your career. For practicing professionals, developing a specialization can help to take your career to a higher level and prepare you to open your own specialty dental practice in the future. For students, whether are pursuing a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD), there are several career specializations to consider as you decide whether to complete your dental degree and look for your first job or continue your schooling to become a specialist.

General Dentistry

A general Dentist often operates in a private dental practice providing general care and some advanced services to patients, often in a local community. A general Dentist may refer patients to specialists in certain situations but is equipped to handle the full range of basic dental care. Operating a general practice can allow you to get to know generations of patients from the surrounding area.

An associate general Dentist performs the same responsibilities but provides services in an office owned by another Dentist.

Pediatric Dentistry

A Pediatric Dentist serves the unique dental care needs of children. While performing generally the same services as a General Dentist, the pediatric specialization allows you to focus on younger patients in need of a strong dental hygiene foundation and guidance in forming good habits.

Pediatric Dentists split their focus between preventative and therapeutic services, since their patients often have the best opportunities to secure a lifetime of dental health through proper attention and care at an early age. Younger patients can also provide the best opportunities to identify and diagnose signs of underlying disease such as congenital heart defects that can manifest through oral health issues.

Cosmetic Dentistry

While not an official specialty, many General Dentists choose a cosmetic focus. Dentists that choose the cosmetic path, focus on services like veneers, crowns, and whitening.  Specialists in Cosmetic Dentistry work with patients of all age groups with a variety of needs. Services can range from simple braces for children to dentures or even full mouth reconstruction. Cosmetic Dentists often provide services such as whitening, crown lengthening, and repairing chips for patients with otherwise healthy teeth and gums.

Prosthodontics and Orthodontics

If you choose either of these fields you might find yourself performing dentures, braces, or implants. As with other specialized fields, you may choose to work your way up to a position as an associate Dentist in an established practice or open your own office instead.

Dental Public Health

If you wish to focus more on educating, organizing, and empowering entire communities for large-scale dental health improvements, then you may be attracted to the field of dental public health. Rather than providing individual services through a private office, public dental health specialists focus on coordinating larger efforts between public and private groups to plan, design, fund, and deliver community-focused services.

Community services can include educational efforts such as programs delivered in local schools, or even large-scale services such as free cleft-palette surgeries in developing nations. Even if you practice in a specialized private office, you might consider working part time or volunteering to lend your expertise to such community-focused initiatives.

Additional Specialties

The National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards publishes a list of officially recognized dental specialties on its website. The commission is part of the American Dental Association (ADA).

Additional specialties recognized by the commission include:

  • Dental Anesthesiologist
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist
  • Oral Medicine
  • Orofacial Pain
  • Periodontics

Planning Your Career in Dental Care

Career planning is important for a full time Dentist, but may be more so for a student getting started in the field. If you are still completing your education and are not ready for full-time work, it can still be a good idea to start building your resume with part-time dental positions.

Planning your career involves asking several questions about the kind of dental office and the kind of dental jobs you would like to secure along the way. The answers to these questions can depend greatly on your current status as an undergraduate student, post-graduate student, or practicing professional. Important questions to ask include:

  • Are you looking for a full-time or part-time position?
  • Would you rather work for an established practice as an associate Dentist or open your own dental center?
  • Is there a specific patient base you would like to serve?
  • Should you pursue a position as a dental assistant, dental hygienist, x-ray technician, or other specialized role along the way?
  • Would you rather work in a private practice with a specialty such as oral surgery, or would you prefer work as a General Dentist?
  • Would you like to perform fee-for-service work, or free charitable service?

If you plan to open your own specialist office or group practice, consider joining with fellow dental professionals in an organization such as the American Dental Association for support, guidance, and access to important resources. As an example, the ADA provides research and assistance to members during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Organizations like this can help you with questions related to malpractice insurance, licensing, and other topics.

Finding Job Postings for Dental Associates

Signing up to receive a job alert from a specialized service such as DentalPost can give you the advantage of viewing new openings early and often. Whether you are seeking a full-time position and have specific job types in mind, or just beginning to follow your dental dreams as a part-time hygienist, many companies are looking for the right candidate with your qualifications.

If you are an undergraduate student looking to enter the industry, there are several non-technical skills that can help you to gain an advantage in your job search:

  • Good communication skills to build rapport with patients and the Dentist
  • Attention to detail
  • Knowledge of personal oral health principles
  • Passion for high quality patient care
  • Connecting with others in the dental field
  • High motivation to pursue a career in dentistry.
  • Attending an educational dental program

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