Dentistry is a branch of medicine that consists of the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, commonly in the dentition but also the oral mucosa, and of adjacent and related structures and tissues, particularly in the maxillofacial (jaw and facial) area. Although primarily associated with teeth among the general public, the field of dentistry or dental medicine is not limited to teeth but includes other aspects of the craniofacial complex including the temperomandibular and other supporting structures.
Dentistry is often also understood to subsume the now largely defunct medical specialty of stomatology (the study of the mouth and its disorders and diseases) for which reason the two terms are used interchangeably in certain regions.
Dental treatments are carried out by a dental team, which often consists of a dentist and dental auxiliaries (dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental technicians, as well as dental therapists). Most dentists either work in private practices (primary care), dental hospitals or (secondary care) institutions (prisons, armed forces bases, etc.).
The history of dentistry is almost as ancient as the history of humanity and civilization with the earliest evidence dating from 7000 BC. Remains from the early Harappan periods of the Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300 BC) show evidence of teeth having been drilled dating back 9,000 years. It is thought that dental surgery was the first specialization from medicine.
Some dentists undertake further training after their initial degree in order to specialize. Exactly which subjects are recognized by dental registration bodies varies according to location. Examples include:
- Dental public health – The study of epidemiology and social health policies relevant to oral health
- Conservative dentistry and endodontics: The art and science of restoring the tooth form and function when destructed by carious and non-carious lesions affecting the teeth, before involvement of pulp or root canal is termed as conservative dentistry. When the root canal are involved, the speciality is known as endodontics. This speciality degree is awarded in India
- Endodontics (also called endodontology) – Root canal therapy and study of diseases of the dental pulp and periapical tissues.
- Forensic odontology – The gathering and use of dental evidence in law. This may be performed by any dentist with experience or training in this field. The function of the forensic dentist is primarily documentation and verification of identity.
- Geriatric dentistry or Geriodontics – The delivery of dental care to older adults involving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of problems associated with normal aging and age-related diseases as part of an interdisciplinary team with other health care professionals.
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology – The study, diagnosis, and sometimes the treatment of oral and maxillofacial related diseases.
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology – The study and radiologic interpretation of oral and maxillofacial diseases.
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery (also called oral surgery) – Extractions, implants, and surgery of the jaws, mouth and face.
- Oral biology – Research in dental and craniofacial biology
- Oral Implantology – The art and science of replacing extracted teeth with dental implants.
- Oral medicine – The clinical evaluation and diagnosis of oral mucosal diseases
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics – The straightening of teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth.
- Pediatric dentistry (also called pedodontics) – Dentistry for children
- Periodontology (also called periodontics) – The study and treatment of diseases of the periodontium (non-surgical and surgical) as well as placement and maintenance of dental implants
- Prosthodontics (also called prosthetic dentistry) – Dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants. Some prosthodontists further their training in "oral and maxillofacial prosthodontics", which is the discipline concerned with the replacement of missing facial structures, such as ears, eyes, noses, etc.
- Special needs dentistry (also called special care dentistry) – Dentistry for those with developmental and acquired disabilities.
- Veterinary dentistry, a speciality of veterinary medicine – The field of dentistry applied to the care of animals.
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