There are nine recognized fields of specialty within dentistry and several other areas that are not formally recognized as specialties. While all dentists attend many years of medical school to achieve their dental degrees, some dental professionals also pursue up to three years of additional training in order to specialize in a particular area of dentistry. If your dental condition is more serious than what your general dentist can treat, you may be referred to a specialist to receive more focused care.
There are currently nine areas of dentistry that have been recognized by the American Dental Association as meeting the Requirements for Recognition of Dental Specialties. Dental specialties are recognized by the ADA to protect the public, nurture the art and science of dentistry, and improve the quality of oral health care. Specialties are recognized in those areas of dentistry where advanced knowledge and skills are essential to maintain or restore oral health.
Not all areas of dentistry will meet the requirements for specialty recognition. However, when non-specialty groups develop and advance areas of interest through education, practice, and research, they benefit both the dental profession and patients seeking oral health care.
Oral health specialties include:
- Dental Public Health – the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community efforts. This dental specialty is concerned with public dental health education, applied dental research, the administration of group dental care programs, and the prevention and control of dental diseases on a community basis. Dental public health was recognized as a dental specialty in May 1976.
- Endodontics – this branch of dentistry is concerned with the health of the dental pulp and related tissues. Endodontics was recognized as a dental specialty in December 1983.
- Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology – this specialty deals with the nature, identification and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. It includes research and diagnosis of diseases using clinical, radiographic, microscopic, biochemical and other examinations. Oral and maxillofacial pathology was recognized as a dental specialty in May 1991.
- Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology – this field of dentistry is concerned with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by all modalities of radiant energy used in the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders, and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region (i.e., radiography, X-rays, etc.). Oral and maxillofacial radiology was recognized as a dental specialty in April 2001.
- Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery – the diagnosis, surgical, and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects involving both functional and cosmetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues in the oral and maxillofacial region. Oral and maxillofacial surgery was recognized as a dental specialty in October 1990.
- Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics – the diagnosis, prevention, interception, and correction of malocclusion, as well as neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities in developing or mature orofacial structures. Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics was recognized as a dental specialty in April 2003.
- Pediatric Dentistry – an age-defined specialty that provides primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic care for infants and children through adolescence, and to patients with special health care needs. Pediatric dentistry was recognized as a dental specialty in 1995.
- Periodontics – the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth, and the maintenance of the health, function, and appearance of these structures and tissues. Periodontics was recognized as a dental specialty in December 1992.
- Prosthodontics – the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation, and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, and appearance of health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing teeth and their substitutes. This field often involves the use of dental appliances to restore the health and function of the mouth. Prosthodontics was recognized as a dental specialty in April 2003.