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Health Care Providers: Dentists

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What Is Dentistry?

Dentistry (DEN-teh-stree) is the medical care that prevents and treats diseases and conditions affecting the mouth and teeth.

What Is a Dentist?

A dentist is a doctor who studies, diagnoses, and treats mouth and teeth conditions. They also help people maintain good oral care.

Why Would Someone Need One?

Dentists help people take good care of their mouth and teeth. When problems happen, they can diagnose and treat them. These include: 

  • cavities
  • tooth abscess
  • tooth decay
  • gum disease
  • a broken or cracked tooth
  • injuries of the mouth or teeth

They can provide:

  • routine dental cleanings
  • emergency treatment for tooth and mouth injuries

For painful procedures, dentists give medicine with a small needle to numb the area. Some dentists use sedation to make people sleepy and not feel pain during procedures.  

What Is Their Training?

A dentist's training usually includes:

  • 4 years of pre-dental education at a college or university
  • 4 years of dental school (a DDS degree)

After college and dental school, they can do a residency in a specialty such as pediatric dentistry or dental anesthesia.

Good to Know

Getting regular cleanings and care from your dentist helps your child's teeth stay healthy. If you need help to pay for dental care, visit hhs.gov.

Date reviewed: September 2022