• What is dentistry?
  • Definitions of Recognized Dental Specialties (ADA)
  • Dental Education
  • Oral Biology
  • Dental Materials
  • Oral Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Restorative dentistry
  • Fixed Prosthodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Peiodontics
  • Oral Medicine
  • Oral Diagnosis
  • Orthodontics




Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, commonly in the dentition but also the oral mucosa, and of adjacent and related structures and tissues, particularly in the maxillofacial (jaw and facial) area. Although primarily associated with teeth among the general public, the field of dentistry or dental medicine is thus not limited to odontology (from Ancient Greek δούς (odoús, “tooth”) - the study of the structure, development, and abnormalities of the teeth. Because of their substantial overlap in concept, dentistry is often also understood to subsume the now largely defunct medical specialty of stomatology (the study of the mouth and its disorders and diseases) for which reason the two terms are used interchangeably in certain regions.


Dentistry is widely considered important for overall health. Dental treatment is carried out by the dental team, which often consists of a dentist and dental auxiliaries (dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental technicians, and dental therapists). Most dentists work in private practices (primary care), although some work in hospitals (secondary care) and institutions (prisons, armed forces bases, etc.).


The history of dentistry is almost as ancient as the history of humanity and civilization with the earliest evidence dating from 7000BC. Prehistoric dental surgical techniques are seen in Ancient Egypt, where a mandible dated to approximately 2650 BCE shows two perforations just below the root of the first molar, indicating the draining of an abscessed tooth. Remains from the early Harappan periods of the Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300 BCE) show evidence of teeth having been drilled dating back 9,000 years It is thought that dental surgery was the first specialization from medicine.

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Australian Dental Association

American Dental Association




Definitions of Recognized Dental Specialties (ADA)

Dental Public Health: Dental public health is the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community efforts. It is that form of dental practice which serves the community as a patient rather than the individual. It is concerned with the dental health education of the public, with applied dental research, and with the administration of group dental care programs as well as the prevention and control of dental diseases on a community basis. (Adopted May 1976)

Endodontics: Endodontics is the branch of dentistry which is concerned with the morphology, physiology and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues. Its study and practice encompass the basic and clinical sciences including biology of the normal pulp, the etiology, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions. (Adopted December 1983)

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: Oral pathology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of pathology that deals with the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. It is a science that investigates the causes, processes, and effects of these diseases. The practice of oral pathology includes research and diagnosis of diseases using clinical, radiographic, microscopic, biochemical, or other examinations. (Adopted May 1991)

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Oral and maxillofacial radiology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of radiology concerned with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by all modalities of radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region. (Adopted April 2001)

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Oral and maxillofacial surgery is the specialty of dentistry which includes the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries and defects involving both the functional and esthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. (Adopted October 1990)

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics is the dental specialty that includes the diagnosis, prevention, interception, and correction of malocclusion, as well as neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities of the developing or mature orofacial structures. (Adopted April 2003)

Pediatric Dentistry: Pediatric Dentistry is an age-defined specialty that provides both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs. (Adopted 1995)

Periodontics: Periodontics is that specialty of dentistry which encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth or their substitutes and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. (Adopted December 1992)

Prosthodontics: Prosthodontics is the dental specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes. (Adopted April 2003)


Approved by the Council on Dental Education and Licensure, American Dental Association


Dental Education

The dental education is devided into two or three phases:

Preclinical phase: These are the first two academic years in which the dental student will cover all the basic sciences as anatomy physiology, immunilogy ect....

Intermediate phase: This is the third academic year in which the dental students will perform some training on extracted or artificial teeth and start clinical exposure in some courrses.

Clinical phase: these are the last two academic years, in which the student will run the vast majority of the courses in the clinic under direct supervieion from the staff.

To become a dentist you must cover the following subjects:

  • Oral biology
  • Dental material
  • Oral pathology
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Restorative dentistry
  • Endodontics
  • Crown and bridge prosthodontics
  • Periodontology
  • Oral Medicine
  • Oral Diagnosis
  • Prosthodontics
  • Orthodontics

In addition other supjects that are common to all health care workers are also coverd. These are:

  • General anatomy, histology and embyriology (special emphysis on head and neck region).
  • Biochemistry and immunology.
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology.
  • General surgery (as related to dentistry).
  • General Medicine (as related to dentistry).
  • Forensic odontology


Oral Biology

Histology of the joint between the mandibular Condyle and the one of the skull bones, the temporal bone - tempormandibular joint.

This is the branch of dentistry that deals with the microscopic and macroscopic structural studies of the oral and surrounding tissues. Biology in general is the science of life whether animal or plant, while the Latin word oral comes originally from the word oris that means mouth. It introduces the student to the basic biological information that is important to all clinical dental branches. The scope of oral biology includes the information that is relevant to facial growth, tooth eruption and shedding. It provides a detailed description of the morphology of all teeth (primary and permanent) and the fundamentals of occlusion. It also discusses the relationship between the shape, position and alignment of the teeth and their function.

Dentistry as a profession continoues to undergo changes including improvements in clinical treatment. As our knowledge has increased and our techniques have improved, there have been a greater appreciation of oral biology as a source of information helping in the refinement of materials used to replace tooth structure. 


Dental Materials

Dental Materials Text Book

This is the branch of dental science that deals with the basic and applied information about the physical, mechanical and biological properties of materials used in all branches of dentistry. It introduces these materials to the beginner to make him understand the basis for their laboratory and clinical use.

The application of dental materials is not limited to any one branch of dentistry. There is scarcely a dental procedure that does not make use of dental materials in one form or another. Some phases of restorative dentistry depend largely on various materials and their favorable properties for the proper management of decayed teeth. Some other branches of dentistry, on the other hand, oral surgery and periodontics require less uses of materials. Even in these branches the physical characteristics of the equipment and the chemical characteristics of the material used are important.

Every dentist, therefore, should posses sufficient knowledge about the physical and chemical properties of the materials he is using. This is important for the proper selection and application of the dental treatment in different situations.


Oral Pathology

Tumor on the palate

Pathology is the science and study of the changes which occur in the living tissues due to diseases. The origin, development, nature, course and cures of diseases are among the scope of this science. Oral pathology deals with the diseases affecting the oral and paraoral structures.

The oral pathologist has to understand oral diseases so that it can be properly diagnosed and adequately treated. Knowledge in this field is acquired through the adaptation of the methods used by other basic dental sciences. These include gross and microscopic anatomy, chemistry, microbiology and physiology. Knowledge is also obtained by clinical histories and observations of patients. Oral pathology, therefore correlates and integrates the clinical signs and symptoms with these basic sciences.

The scope of oral pathology includes the study of the following subjects:

 • The developmental disturbances of oral and paraoral structures.

 • Regressive alterations of teeth. (conditions leading to loss of teeth structure).

 • Physical and chemical injuries of oral cavity and heading of oral wounds.

 • Dental caries.

 • Diseases of the pulp, periapical tissues, periodontium, skin, muscles, bone and joints.

 • Spread of oral infections.

 • Cysts and tumors of oral cavity


Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Oral surgeon in theater

This branch of dentistry employs operations for the cure or alleviation of certain diseases affecting the teeth and oral tissue. It demands from its practitioners a diagnostic skill based on through knowledge of anatomy, pathology, physiology, bacteriology, normal and abnormal radiographic appearance of the facial bones. It also requires extensive training in the different surgical departments of the hospital which is necessary for the young oral surgeon to acquire the technical skill needed for the management of the difficult traumatic or pathologic conditions found in the oral cavity. Many of the simple oral surgical procedures can be done on the dental chair under local anaesthesia in the out patient. The patient does not have to be admitted to a hospital for tooth extraction or even for the treatment of a simple fracture the mandible (lower jaw). On the other hand other major oral surgical procedures has to be done in the operating theatre, therefore the patient has to be admitted into the hospital. As a hospital staff the oral surgeon makes his contribution as a member of the health team in the care of many of those conditions which require, for their management, the combined skills of other specialities. He is frequently called for consultation with other specialists like internal medicine, hematology (blood diseases). general surgery, neurosurgery (brain surgeons), plastic surgery, otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat).

The scope of oral surgery includes the indications and techniques used for extracting fully erupted teeth as well as the methods used remove impacted teeth (those who remain embedded in a wrong position inside the jaw bones). The management of dental and facial infections is part of the duties of the oral surgeon. The scope also includes the oral surgical procedures used to help the patient wear a dental prosthetic appliances as well as the surgical methods used for treatment of cysts and tumors of the jaws and oral cavity.

Correction of cleft lip and palate is one of the domains of the oral and maxillofacial surgeon

Oral surgeons are also concerned with the treatment of fractures of the mandible, maxilla and other facial bones. As such they are part of the emergency room team and therefore should be on call for that.


Restorative Dentistry

Restoration of carious teeth by removal of decay and cavity preparation prior to filling is the main domain of restorative or conservative dentistry

Also called “operative dentistry” and “conservative dental surgery” consists of all the procedures, including preventive measures by which teeth may be conserved. In this way the natural masticating mechanisms shall be maintained in such a state that the general health will not be endangered. It includes mechanical and biological treatment of teeth affected by caries, erosion, abrasion, attrition, and other diseases and injuries of hard tooth structure. The treatment is done in such way that will best fit the remaining part of the tooth to receive a restoration which will give the tooth its original form, function, strength, esthetics (beauty) and prevent recurrence of caries in the future.

Restoration of the diseased tooth to its original shape and function requires from the dentist a good knowledge of the normal structure and function acquired in the study of oral biologic sciences. It also requires a high technical ability and skill for its execution. Restorations must always take into consideration the health of the supporting tissues (tissues which attach the root of the tooth to the alveolar bone). Faulty restorations are a common eiological factor of periodontal disease. It can also lead to traumatic occlusion with all its ill effects on the periodontium and temporomandibular joint.The improper choice of filling material may also result in many complications leading to food packing with subsequent destruction and breakdown of supporting tissues.

The objectives of operative dentistry are now broadened to include both preservation and prevention of dental tissue destruction. In addition to treatment of diseases affecting hard tooth structure, it involves the application of all measures which can effectively be used to prevent, intercept or control the progressive advance of already existing dental abnormalities. Operative dentistry, therefore is blend of artistic creativeness and precise technical skills with the basic and applied sciences.


Fixed Prosthodontics

A case of missing anterior teeth before and after restoration with a bridge

Prosthodontics is that branch of dentistry pertaining to the restoration and maintenance of oral function, appearance and health of the patient by the restoration of the natural teeth or the replacement of the missing teeth and adjacent oral and maxillofacial tissue with artificial substitutes. Prosthodontics are either removable or fixed.

Fixed prosthodontics is that branch of prosthodontics concerned with restoration or replacement of teeth or both by artificial substitutes that are not removable from the mouth.

The term crown describes one of the following:

1- Anatomic crown: It is the portion of a natural tooth that extends from the cement-enamel junction to the occlusal surface or incisal edge.

2- Clinical crown: It is the portion of a natural tooth that extends from gums to the occlusal surface or the incisal edge.

3- Artificial crown: It is a fixed restoration of the major part or the entire coronal part of a natural tooth restores missing tooth structure by surrounding most or all of the remaining structure with a material such as cast metal, porcelain or a combination of both materials.

A fixed prosthesis, or fixed bridge is a non removable prosthesis that is rigidly attached to one or more abutment teeth to replace one or more  missing teeth. The term fixed partial denture or fixed appliance are sometimes used.



Removable partial denture

A prosthesis may be defined as an appliance which replaces lost or congenitally missing tissue. Some prosthetic appliances restores both the function and the appearance of the tissue they replace. Others merely restore one of these factors.

Prosthetics is the art and science of designing and fitting artificial substitutes to replace lost or missing tissues. Dental Prosthetics is a subdivision which deals with its application to the mouth. This is achieved through construction of partial or complete dentures to restore missing teeth.

.Maxillofacial prosthetics are those appliances that restore the shape of lost facial features. Patients can loose parts of their facial features in accidents or following cancer surgery. If they are not fit enough to withstand corrective plastic surgery, they should be treated by these appliances to camouflage the disfigurement.



Diagram showing endodontic treatment for a lower molar

Endodontics treatment can be defined as the treatment or the precautions taken to maintain the badly decayed tooth or the non vital in function in the dental arch.

Toothache has been a scourge to mankind from the earliest times. Both the Chinese and the  Egyptians left records describing caries and gum abscesses. The Chinese considered that these abscesses were caused by white worm with a black head that lived within the tooth. The “worm theory” was current until the middle of the eighteenth century when doctors started to have doubts about it.

The Chinese treatment for an abscessed tooth was aimed at killing the worm with a preparation that contained arsenic. The use of this drug was approved in most dental schools as recently as 1950s in spite of the realization that extensive tissue destruction occurred if minute amounts of the drug leaked into the soft tissues.

Pulpal treatment during Greek and Roman times was again aimed at destroying the pulp by cauterization, either with a hot needle, with boiling oil or with a formentation of opium and hyoscyamus.

The concept of treating the pulp of the tooth in order to preserve the tooth itself is a relatively modern development in the history of dentistry. Recently it was realized  that the function and usefulness of the tooth depends on the integrity of the periodontal tissues (tissues that attach the root of the tooth to its bony socket), and not on the vitality of the pulp. Until relatively recently endodontists were concerned with the effect of various potent drug on the microorganisms within the rot canal.

The scope of modern endodontics include the protection of healthy pulp from disease or from chemical and mechanical injury. It also includes the conservative and surgical management of infected root canals.



Periodontology is the study of the histology and pathology of the tissues that support, attach and surround the teeth. It deals as well with the prevention and management of disease affecting the tissue. The term periodontium describes these tissues which attach and support the root of the teeth in their bony sockets and include the gingiva (gum), the cementum, the periodontal ligament and the alveolar bone (that part of the jaw bone that caries the teeth in its sockets).

Periodontal disease if left untreated, can lead to gradual exposure of the buried part of the tooth (the root), its looseness and its eventual loss. Prevention and early recognition of diseases affecting these tissues is important to avoid the early loss of teeth.


Oral Medicine

This is the branch of dentistry that deals with the relationship between oral and systemic diseases.The aim of oral medicine is the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease. The duty of the specialist is the relief of symptoms, the early detection of the primary systemic disease and the proper referral of patients for the indicated care.

The term diagnosis in general means the art of recognition of disease or the identification of tissue abnormalities. It is the process of interpretation and evaluation of the results of examination, of relating the symptoms and signs to active tissue changes and of considering the predisposing and exsiting causes of the disease. Generally, oral diagnosis is the branch of dental science that deals with  the recognition of a diseases process in the oral cavity and with the differentiation of one disease from another.

The skill of a specialist in this field depends on an intimate knowledge of the normal structure and function of oral tissues. He should be able to recognize departure from the normal as well as knowledge of the clinical course of the disease process. Reaching a proper diagnosis depends also on skillful history taking and the use of adjuvant means of investigations.


Oral Diagnosis

The term diagnosis in general means the art of recognition of disease or the identification of tissue abnormalities. It is the process of interpretation and evaluation of the results of examination, of relating the symptoms and signs to active tissue changes and of considering the predisposing and exsiting causes of the disease. Generally, oral diagnosis is the branch of dental science that deals with  the recognition of a diseases process in the oral cavity and with the differentiation of one disease from another.

The skill of a specialist in this field depends on an intimate knowledge of the normal structure and function of oral tissues. He should be able to recognize departure from the normal as well as knowledge of the clinical course of the disease process. Reaching a proper diagnosis depends also on skillful history taking and the use of adjuvant means of investigations.



The word “ orthodontics “ is derived from two Greek words : “ orthos “ which means straight or correct , and the word “ dontos “ which means tooth. In other words it means correct or straight teeth that are properly aligned. It was defined as the science of prevention and correction of the teeth. It includes the study of growth and development of the masticatory apparatus, and the prevention and treatment of abnormalities of this development. The job of the orthodontist therefore is to restore as early as possible the correct relationships of teeth which in turn will result in efficient mastication of the food.

Malocclusion of the teeth can interfere with the beauty of the face because it can lead to disharmony in its proportions. Correction of this occlusal disharmony can restore facial beauty and treat the  resulting psychological disturbances in affected children Other duties of the orthodontist include the prevention of faulty speech resulting from malocclusion and also the correction of mouth breathing habits.