The word dentist itself comes from both the Latin and French word ‘dente’ meaning ‘tooth’. But dentistry as a field of medicine encompasses much more than just its common association with teeth.
Whilst much of a dentist’s work may be focused on the dentition and surrounding structures, dental medicine is responsible for the prevention and treatment of disorders, diseases, and conditions associated with many aspects of the craniofacial complex.
Evidence of dental practice dates back over 9000 years and is often regarded as being the first specialised form of medicine. Today, dental practitioners are made up of skilled individuals specialised in offering treatments and support for patients during a variety of aesthetic and medical treatments and procedures. A practicing dentist forms part of a highly skilled team consisting of dental assistant, hygienists, technicians, and therapists all of whom work together to deliver the highest quality of care.
Oral diseases are among the most common throughout the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described oral conditions as a major public health concern and has acknowledged that disadvantaged socio-economic groups are much more likely to be affected due to their lack of access to dental medicine.
The importance of regular check-ups and an attentive attitude towards ones oral health cannot be understated. Many of us will have to undergo preventative or curative procedures during our lifetime to ensure we keep our teeth and gums in the best possible condition.
Qualified dentists undergo many years of training and have the skills to perform numerous procedures including the fitting of dentures, fillings, crowns, and bridges or performing root canals and tooth extraction. Many dentists opt to undergo additional training in order to perform oral and maxillofacial surgery.
Dentists advocate that preventative measures are far better than cures and corrective measures. Oral infections can be symptomatic of much more pressing matters. As such professionals advise that patients should have regular twice yearly check-ups in order to ensure no underlying problems are going undiagnosed and treated.
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There are many identifiable specialties within dentistry, although their overlap and unique accreditation depends upon the local jurisdiction of a country’s dental governing body.
Special needs or special care dentistry is a dental specialty involving the specialist care of patients in order to accommodate developmental and acquired disabilities.
Also called prosthodontics, prosthetic dentistry is a speciality of dentistry focused on dental prosthetics. This typically includes the fitting of dentures, bridges and other implants implants.
Periodontology is a specialist branch of dentistry concerned with the study of the supporting structures of teeth. Dentists interested in periodontology have research and practical interest in the study of gums and similar tissues as well as the diseases that affect them.
A paediatric dentist is concerned with the specialised dental care of children and adolescents.
Also referred to as dentofacial orthopaedics, orthodontics is concerned with the diagnosis, prevention, and correction of primarily teeth as well as the midface and mandible.
Part of veterinary medicine, veterinary dentistry is concerned with the dental care of animals.
As people age they become more susceptible to aural conditions. Geriatric dentistry offers specialised care for elderly people and involves the treatment and prevention of age-related conditions.
Also referred to as forensic dentistry, this speciality is used for the gathering of evidence from dentistry for use in cases of criminal and civil law. In many cases the role of the forensic dentist is concerned with the verification of a person’s identity from existing dental records.
Referring to the specialised medical treatment of the oral cavity and related structures, oral medicine lies at the intersection between dentistry and broader medical practice.
Oral implantology refers to the process and study of replacing damaged and diseased teeth with dental implants.
Sometimes referred to simply as oral surgery. Oral and maxillofacial surgery encompasses the practice of tooth extractions as well as implants and surgery of the jaws, surrounding structures and tissues.
As a speciality, dentists studying oral biology conduct research into specific areas of dental and craniofacial biology.
Also referred to as endodontics it refers to the study of dental pulp. In relation to Conservative dentistry, this speciality is concerned with the restoration of tooth form and function following lesions and damage to the structure.
Oral and maxillofacial pathology involves the diagnosis and study of diseases affecting the oral cavity and surrounding structures.
This specialty is concerned with the interpretation and performance of diagnostic images of the oral cavity and the larger maxillofacial area.
Dental public health refers to the study of oral health in relation to epidemiology, including the study of the impact of health policy.