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Dental and Oral Health Center

Dental and Oral Health Center Overview

Your mouth is a mirror for your general health.

Dental and oral health goes beyond healthy teeth; oral health is integral to your overall health and well-being. Oral diseases can cause serious health problems and be very expensive to correct, especially if they're not caught early.

Even more importantly, dental disease can cause health problems that go way beyond the mouth. In fact, research has shown that there are some types of oral disease that may lead to serious health problems such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke, and low-birth weight or premature births.

Although there have been dramatic improvements over the past 50 years including water fluoridation and the development of dental sealants, many people still suffer from dental diseases. This is especially unfortunate considering that there are so many inexpensive and effective methods to protect your teeth. In fact, dental and oral diseases are considered to be a "silent epidemic" in the United States according to the Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health in May, 2000.

Knowing more about more about your dental and oral health this is one of the first steps you can take toward improving your overall health.

Dental Specialties

Dentistry is the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention or treatment of diseases, disorders, or conditions of the oral cavity or the jaw area along with associated structures and their impact on the human body.

Dental Public Health is preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through community efforts. This is how dentistry takes the community as its patient rather than the individual. Dentists interested in public health are not only concerned with research, but also with the administration of group dental care programs, and preventing and controlling dental diseases in whole communities.

Endodontics (root canals) is the branch of dentistry that's concerned with the shape and function of the human dental pulp that holds all of the nerves and blood vessels for the teeth. The study of endodontics includes the structure and function of tooth pulp, and ways to classify, diagnose, prevent, and treat injuries of this tissue.

Oral Pathology deals with the nature, identification and management of diseases that affect the oral area and the lower half of the face. It investigates the causes, processes, and effects of these diseases. The practice includes research and diagnosis of diseases using clinical, biochemical, microscopic and radiographic examinations.

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology (mouth and jaw) is the discipline of imaging (radiology) and dentistry, and is concerned with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by any form of X-ray or computerized imaging that are used for diagnosis and management of diseases of the mouth and jaw area.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (mouth and jaw) is the specialty of dentistry that involves the diagnosis, and surgical treatment of diseases and injuries involving the mouth and jaw.

Oral Medicine is the specialty that deals with the diagnosis and management of oral mucosal disease, oral facial pain disorders, temporal mandibular joint dysfunction, taste disorders and salivary gland dysfunction (xerostomia).

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics (braces) include the diagnosis, prevention, interception, and correction of odd teeth formation, as well as the nerves, muscles, and skeleton of developing or mature facial structures.

Pediatric Dentistry (kids) provides preventive and therapeutic oral care for infants and children all the way through adolescence, including those with special health needs.

Periodontics (gums) is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the gums. It is also the maintenance of the health, function, and look of the gums.

Prosthodontics (esthetic restoration and replacement of teeth) is the dental specialty that is involved in diagnosing, planning, rehabilitating, and maintaining the oral function of patients who are missing teeth by making substitutes.

Dental Degrees

Although the degrees have two different names, they are functionally the same. They both typically require at least 3 years of undergraduate school, with 4 years of dental school. Both are accepted by state licensing boards and they're allowed to practice the same type of dentistry. Additional training is required to be a specialist like an Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon.

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Last Reviewed: Aug 25, 2008

Stanley G Vermilyea, DMD, MS
Faculty Emeritus
Dentistry Administration
Former Associate Professor of Primary Care
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University

Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD Richard J Jurevic, DDS, PhD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
School of Dental Medicine
Case Western Reserve University