What Are the Duties of a Dentist?

Dentists help people care for their teeth and maintain good oral health. Many specialties within the field exist, all with slightly different responsibilities. Read on to learn more about the typical job duties of dentists. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Typical Duties of a Dentist

Dentists help their patients protect, restore and maintain their oral health. They diagnose and treat diseases, and administer care to injuries and malformations of the teeth, oral tissues and the mouth. Dentists also check a patient's head and neck areas as they relate to oral health.

Your job duties as a dentist include restoring and replacing teeth that have been damaged through disease or injury, and advising patients on proper oral health care to prevent future problems. This includes teaching your patients how to floss, brush their teeth and choose an appropriate diet. Other tasks include applying sealants to teeth, taking molds of teeth, extracting teeth, and performing cosmetic dental procedures to improve a patient's appearance.

Dentists employ a variety of procedures and equipment to prevent and treat oral health problems. You'll use advanced technologies to examine the teeth and mouth, including X-rays and computer-generated imaging. You'll fill cavities and remove tooth decay using brushes, forceps and drills. You may prescribe antibiotics and other medications, perform oral surgeries, and administer anesthetics as required.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2014) $149,540 per year
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 18%
Work Environment Offices
Similar Occupations Optometrists, physicians and surgeons, podiatrists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Specialty Areas

While most dentists practice general dentistry, some choose to undertake additional training in order to work in one of nine specialties. Among specialist dentists are orthodontists, who use braces and related dental appliances to move or straighten teeth; periodontists, who treat the dental issues related to gums and bone; and oral and maxillofacial surgeons, who operate on teeth, gums and jaws. Pediatric dentists focus on treating children and patients with special needs. Prosthodontists use bridges, crowns and dentures to help patients with missing teeth, while root canals are performed by endodontists. Other areas of specialty include oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology and dental public health.

Other Common Tasks

In addition to patient care, a dentist's duties may include administrative and business-oriented tasks related to owning or running a dental practice. For instance, you might interact with suppliers and vendors. Depending on the size of the practice, you might also do bookkeeping. Management of personnel, including hiring, training and supervising hygienists, receptionists and other dental staff, may be part of the job.

Education and Licensure Requirements

The road to becoming a dentist most often begins with earning a bachelor's degree. A specific major is not required, but you'll need to take prerequisite courses in chemistry, biology, physics and organic chemistry. You'll then need to complete four years of dental school. If you want to enter a specialty, you'll need to complete more training by entering a one to two year residency.

All dentists in the U.S. are required to be licensed. After graduating from an accredited dental school, you'll need to pass both written and practical exams. If you go into a specific dental field, some states require that you earn a specialty license or certificate. This could involve passing a specialty exam.

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