As of 2020, the number of dentists in the US was estimated at 201,117. Have you ever wondered what these professionals do? A dentist's area of care goes beyond their patient's gums and teeth. Their specialty covers many other areas, including salivary glands, the tongue, and muscles of the jaw, neck, and head.
Here are five roles that dentists perform every day:
1. Diagnosing and Treating Oral Diseases
Dentists are specially trained to diagnose, identify, and treat common oral diseases. If you present yourself in a dental clinic, the dentist first performs a physical examination of the lips, tongue, lymph nodes, gums, floor and roof of the mouth, and overall mouth cleanliness.
The doctor may also scrape or tap your teeth to further assist with diagnosis. In some cases, they may recommend an x-ray to have an internal view of your gums and cheek. In the case the dentist suspects oral cancer, they may order an MRI scan, CT scan, or endoscopy.
2. Interpreting Diagnostic Tests and X-rays
Once a dentist suspects a specific oral condition, they may recommend further tests. Mainly, dentists request salivary diagnostics for periodontal diseases, oral cancer, and dental caries. Once these tests have been conducted, the dentist evaluates and interprets them to ascertain the presence or progression of a certain disease. Once a technician performs an oral x-ray, it's the dentist's role to interpret it to track the severity of a dental problem.
3. Creating a Treatment Plan
Once a dental problem has been successfully diagnosed, the dentist creates a treatment plan. Successful treatment planning in dentistry incorporates four main phases:
- Collecting and collating information.
- Establishing diagnosis.
- Considering treatment options.
- Formulating a treatment plan
When a possible diagnosis has been reached, the dentist selects the most appropriate treatment plan. A comprehensive treatment plan meets the dentist's professional, ethical commitment while satisfying the patient's demands and needs.
4. Performing Surgical Procedures
Dental surgery is one of the major elements of dentistry. Apart from tooth extraction, dentists also operate on jawbones. Some of the most common dental surgeries that dentists perform include:
- Root canal
- Dental implants
- Reconstructive procedures
- Cosmetic surgery
5. Monitoring Growth and Development of Jaws and Teeth
This monitoring is vital for children as it helps in the early detection of orthodontic problems. When you take your child to a dentist, they check for signs of incorrect gum, teeth, and facial development. Mainly, they monitor the following:
- Incorrect tongue position
- Soft tissue dysfunction
- Poor oral positions
- Thumb and finger sucking
By monitoring your child's teeth development, you ensure that they stay on track for a healthy smile in adulthood.
The Bottom Line
Dentists play fundamental roles in society. When you make a dental visit, expect diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of oral conditions, ranging from complex to routine ones.