Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Dental Medicine

What is Dentistry?

Dentistry is devoted to maintaining the health of the teeth, gums, and other hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity. A dentist is a scientist dedicated to the highest standards of health through prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions.

Contrary to popular notions, dentists engage in far more than the limited concept of "treating teeth." The care that dentists give contributes enormously to the quality of their patients' day-to-day lives by preventing tooth decay, periodontal disease, malocclusion, and oral-facial anomalies. These and other oral disorders can cause significant pain, improper mastication (chewing), improper digestion, dry mouth, abnormal speech, and altered facial appearance. Furthermore, dentsits are instrumental in early detection of oral cancer and systemic infectious conditions of the body that manifest themselves in the mouth.

The Fields of Dentistry

Oral Dentistry

General dentists use their oral diagnostic, preventive, surgical, and rehabilitative skills to restore damaged or missing tooth structure and treat diseases of the bone and soft tissue in the mouth and adjacent structures. They also provide patients with programs of preventive oral health care.

Dental Public Health

Individuals who enter the dental public health field are involved in developing policies and programs, such as health care and reform, that affect the community at large. A masters (M.P.H.) or doctorate (D.P.H.) in public health is required.

Endodontics

Endodontists diagnose and treat diseases and injuries that are specific to the dental nerves and pulp (the matter inside the tooth) and tissues that affect the vitality of the teeth. Some sort of post-doctoral education, whether it be a cerfticate or a masters (M.S.D.) is required.

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology

Oral pathologists are dental scientists who study and research the causes, processes, and effects of diseases with oral manifestations. These diseases may be confined to the mouth and oral cavity, or they may affect other parts of the body. Oral pathologists do not treat patients directly. However, they provide critical diagnostic and consultative biopsy services to dentists and physicians in the treatment of their patients. Postdoctoral education is required. Some programs offer certificates; others offer masters (M.S.D.) or doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

This specialty requires practitioners to provide a broad range of diagnostic services and treatments for diseases, injuries, and defects of the neck, head, jaw, and associated structures. Postdoctoral education is required. Some programs offer certificates; others offer masters (M.S.D.) or doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees.

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics

Orthodontists treat problems related to irregular dental development, missing teeth, and other abnormalities. Beyond "straightening teeth," orthodontists establish normal functioning and appearance for their patients. Postdoctoral education is required. Some programs offer certificates; others offer masters (M.S.D.) or doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees.

Pediatric Dentistry

Pediatric dentists specialize in treating children from birth to adolescence. They also treat disabled patients beyond the age of adolescence. Postdoctoral education is required. Some programs offer certificates; others offer masters (M.S.D.) or doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees.

Periodontics

Periodontists diagnose and treat diseases of the gingivial tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Gingivial tissue includes the gum, the oral mucous membranes, and other tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. Postdoctoral education is required. Some programs offer certificates; others offer masters (M.S.D.) or doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees.

Prosthodontics

Prosthodontists replace missing natural teeth with fixed or removable substitutes, such as dentures, bridges, and implants. Postdoctoral education is required. Some programs offer certificates; others offer masters (M.S.D.) or doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees.