A dentist is a medical professional who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases of the teeth, mouth and jaw. Although physicians are allowed by law to diagnose and treat such illnesses, in almost all cases dentists perform this work. The field is known as dentistry.
Dentistry developed as a separate medical profession, but unlike surgeons, they have remained independent of the rest of the medical profession and receive different training, much of which concentrates on treatment rather than diagnosis. Otherwise, dentists receive similar training and are often capable of referring any disease of the teeth, jaw or mouth to a physician when required, performing important early screening functions for diseases such as oral cancer. Dentists are also capable of prescribing drugs, particularly narcotic pain killers, and administering both local and general anesthesia and performing and reading x-rays.
There are several sub-specialties of dentistry:
- Oral surgeons, who specialize in the removal of teeth
- Peridontists, who treat diseases of the gums
- Endodontists, who specialize in diagnosing dental abcesses and performing root canals.
- Orthodontists, who treat conditions relating to biting, usually through the use of braces
- Oral and mallliofacial radiology, which specializes in the diagnosis of dental conditions through radiological means, primarily x-rays.
- Prosthodontists, who treat patients with missing teeth, often with bridges or dentures.
Hospitals usually have some dentists, but they are usually only for emergency procedures during hours dentist practices are often not open.