What Does A Dentist Do?

"I know that a dentist is a healthcare doctor who works to keep our teeth and mouth healthy. But can you please give me a more comprehensive description of what dentists do? Thank you."

asked by Moira K. from Concord, New Hampshire

Dentists are professionals who ensure people’s oral health. They typically head a dental practice team composed of a dental nurse, dental hygienist, dental technician and therapist. They diagnose and treat problems affecting a person’s teeth, gums and mouth. They give advice to patients on matters affecting their dental hygiene.

One of the most important tasks of dentists is examining a patient’s teeth and diagnosing the problem using various tools like x-rays, lasers, digital scanners and computers. They then prescribe the appropriate mode of treatment, explain this to the client and get his or her consent before doing the procedure. The clinical treatments can include filling cavities, removing teeth and repairing fractured teeth. If dealing with bite issues, dentists can prescribe teeth straightening procedures. A whitening procedure may be performed if the patient is suffering from yellowing teeth. They may also fit the patients with dentures, if necessary.

If the problem has to do with the patient’s gums, dentists can administer the appropriate treatments. They may also prescribe antibiotic medication to alleviate the condition. If necessary, a general dental practitioner may recommend that the patient see a specialist who can better diagnose and treat a mouth condition.

For example, if a root canal needs to be performed, the patient may be asked to see an endodontist. If oral cancer is suspected, the patient will be referred to an oral pathologist. Orthodontists are specialists who straighten teeth through the application of braces and other equipment. Prosthodontists, meanwhile, are experts at putting crowns, bridges and dentures to replace missing teeth. For patients suffering from cleft lip, cleft palate and other issues, the dental specialists to go to are oral and maxillofacial surgeons. General practitioners may also refer special needs patients or children to a pediatric dentist who are more experienced in working with them.

Before doing procedures, dentists see to it that anesthetics are applied to the affected and surrounding areas so that the patient will not feel pain when these are undertaken. After the procedures have been conducted, dentists give advice to patients regarding the medications to take, if any, as well as the proper ways of flossing and brushing. They also inform patients about the diet that promotes oral health.

Dentists who have their own private practice may also do administrative tasks such as hiring personnel for their practice and performing or supervising bookkeeping and related work. They may also designate someone to buy needed supplies and equipment or they may opt to do it themselves.

Dentists have to follow strict safety protocols to minimize the risk of infection. They can do this by wearing safety clothing and following strict sanitation procedures in the clinic. They also have to be careful when using drills, probes, forceps and scalpels to avoid injury to themselves and their patients while dental procedures are being carried out. They also have to ensure that dental assistants do their job in sterilizing tools and equipment so that the procedures are carried out in a clean and hygienic manner.

Career Spotlight: Dentist

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