Dentistry is a broad field, encompassing all the professionals who help treat and maintain teeth. While there are a vast number of specialties, there are five main areas of dentistry: dental surgery, general dentistry, orthodontia, veterinary dentistry and forensic dentistry. Within each of these areas, there are a number of potential positions. These include surgeons, doctors, dental assistants, dental hygienists, technical staff and office staff. The requirements, duties and pay for these career opportunities in dentistry vary based on such factors as position, geography, and employer.
General dentistry refers to preventative care, such as cleanings and X-rays, and to minor treatments such as filling cavities. Career opportunities in dentistry that fall in the general category include actual dentists, who are the doctors responsible for inspecting teeth and performing procedures. Such opportunities also include assistants and hygienists, who specialize in cleaning teeth, educating patients about dental care and taking X-rays. Additionally, office staff members are responsible for setting appointments and making reminder calls, processing insurance claims, sending invoices, maintaining accounts and managing clerical functions.
Dental surgery, sometimes called oral surgery, involves surgery on the mouth or teeth, including complex extractions, root canals and removal of wisdom teeth. The doctors in this area are specially trained and certified surgeons. Office staff for surgeons often have the same functions as those in general dentistry. Additionally, a surgical assistant might help the surgeon during procedures. One of the career opportunities in dentistry that is virtually exclusive to this area is dental anesthesiology.
Orthodontia refers to dentistry involving oral appliances such as braces, partials, bridges, and sometimes false teeth. As with many other areas, career opportunities in dentistry for orthodontia include doctors, office staff and technicians. These types of doctors, known as orthodontists, and their assistants, are specially trained in dealing with and fitting dental appliances.
Veterinary dentistry is a specialized field unto itself. In many cases, basic care is provided by a veterinarian, but this particular field offers career opportunities in dentistry to include doctors, surgeons, assistants and office staff. In most cases, these functions are quite similar to general dentistry jobs, except that the patients are animals instead of humans.
Some of the most unique career opportunities in dentistry are found within the field of forensics. Forensic dentists and dental technicians examine the dental features of remains, often to determine identification and sometimes to find cause of death. Others may work with the dental remains of skeletons found on archaeological digs in an effort to understand how past cultures lived. Within this field, the traditional dental roles are often augmented by research assistants and academics.