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After graduating from dental school and being granted a Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Medicine degree, a new dentist can continue attending graduate specialty programs in North America. There are nine dental specialist programs, and they are:

  1. dental anesthesia
  2. oral and maxillofacial surgery
  3. dental public health and Epidemiology
  4. orthodontic specialty
  5. endodontic specialty
  6. prosthodontic specialty
  7. pedodontics specialty
  8. oral and maxillofacial pathology and oral medicine
  9. oral radiology
  10. periodontic specialty

As a general practitioner myself, I provide treatments involving endodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, surgery and pedodontics, like most other general dentists.

How do we learn to provide treatments involving different specialties? We all had education and clinical practices while we were at dental school. After graduation in our general dentistry practices, we also engaged in continuing education to learn the principal and clinical skills. We could provide sound and good results like a specialist with experience, good clinical examination, treatment planning and technique.

Dental anesthesia

It is a specialist program that trains dentists to be proficient in providing general anesthesia and moderate sedation to patients for dental treatments in a hospital or a clinic. They are trained in screening, administering sedative/anesthetic medications, and monitoring and reviving the patients from deep sedation to consciousness. Recognition and management of emergencies, including cardiovascular crises, are part of the curriculum.

It is usually three years long.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery

It is a program that involves a lot of team collaboration with other medical professionals in different aspects of surgery outside the oral boundary.

Besides training in taking wisdom teeth out, it also involves orthognathic surgery (surgery to the jaws) and surgical removal of tumours and cysts in the jaw and face. They have more in-depth training in medicines in the training program. Other areas that an oral surgeon can further specialize in are craniofacial surgery, head and neck surgery, reconstructive surgery, cleft lip and palate surgery, cosmetic facial surgery and maxillofacial trauma and temporomandibular joint surgery.

It is at least four years long, and some dental schools have a combined MD and OMS program.

Dental public health

In this program, the students learn about evidence-based oral disease prevention and health promotion at the individual and population levels. It involves studying biostatistics, epidemiology, the social determinants of health, health economics, health policy and administration.

During the study, there is also a research component in a dentally related public health issue.

It is usually two years long.

Orthodontic

Dentists in this program study orthodontic teeth movements and dentofacial orthopedics to correct malocclusions using different methods and devices like brackets and wires, clear aligners, growth modifications appliances and surgical orthodontic treatments.

Students also learned to treat complicated cases like patients with cleft lip and palate, craniofacial anomalies, orofacial pain and temporomandibular disorders.

It usually is three years in duration.

Endodontic

Endodontics covers diagnosing and treating pathologies of the dental pulp and their surrounding tissues at the tooth roots.

It is usually three years in length.

Prosthodontics

The specialty program train dentists to learn how to replace missing teeth using the optimal choice of fixed, removable or implant-supported prostheses. In this program, students must also provide prostheses for patients with cleft lip, palate, and facial deformities due to cancer or trauma.

It is three years long.

Pedodontics

The program focuses on how to provide primary and specialty-level oral health care to children from infancy through adolescence in academic, institutional or community settings.

It is three years long.

Oral Pathology and Oral Medicine

As an oral and maxillofacial pathology and oral medicine program student, you will have four-year residency training in clinical and laboratory (microscopic) oral and maxillofacial pathology.

You have the option to study only Oral Medicine as a three-year program. 

The students in this program will receive advanced training in diagnosing and managing diseases of the oral and maxillofacial tissues. You will gain experience in the care of medically complex patients who present with oral disease. Laboratory component in cytology and histology is also a significant part of the training.

It is four years long.

Oral and maxillofacial radiology

In this program, intra- and extra-oral imaging, sialography, cone-beam computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging training are provided to the residents. Specialists will be able to recognize and provide interpretations of both normal and abnormal anatomies in the images of the head and neck regions.

It is four years long.

Periodontal specialty

The program trains students in diagnosing and treating patients with gum disease. The residents learn to do gum grafts, bone grafts, sinus lifts and implant placement as part of the periodontology and implantology. 

It is three years long.

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