Dentists are doctors who, after earning a bachelor's degree, typically undergo four years of dental school to earn either a doctor of dental medicine (D.M.D.) or a doctor of dental surgery (D.D.S.) degree. Those dentists who want to practice one of nine dental specialties must complete two to four extra years of training.
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To be licensed, these professionals must pass national written tests and a state or regional clinical licensing exam. The American Dental Association (ADA) is a professional organization that sponsors and promotes continuing education and serves as an advocate for federal and state legislation.
Practitioners do a lot more than treat toothaches. They typically head a team comprised of dental assistants, hygienists, technicians and office staff. They stress preventive care for both children and adults. Many run a general dentistry practice that provides a variety of services for its patients, from filling cavities and removing wisdom teeth to cosmetic procedures typically not covered by insurance, such as placing dental veneers, thin shells that go over teeth to cover chips stains or gaps.
Finding a good dentist who you trust remains vital to maintaining proper oral health. Since approaches to care differ, don't hesitate to to seek a second opinion from another dentist if you don't feel comfortable with a recommended treatment, either.