Clinical dentistry involves the study and implementation of medical procedures that are performed on the teeth and on other structures in the mouth. Most of these procedures are performed in a dental clinic with a staff of dentists and various assistants. The discipline covers a large field of subspecialties, including implant dentistry, periodontology, and oral surgery.
A typical clinic will house one or more dentists, who may either work in general dentistry or work as a specialist in one of the subdisciplines. A general dentist performs tooth and gum examinations, makes diagnoses, and performs procedures on patients. Dental assistants, technicians, and hygienists provide support to the dentist. Most employees will be proficient in using various dental tools, such as X-ray machines, scalpels, and dental mirrors.
Restoration of impaired teeth is a major focus of clinical dentistry. If a patients has holes in the teeth, for example, the dentist might fill in the cavity with durable material or place a protective covering called a crown on the tooth. Individuals who demonstrate damage to the delicate tissues inside the tooth, on the other hand, may require a root canal in which the nerves in a tooth are removed.
Practitioners of clinical dentistry also emphasize maintenance of healthy teeth. As such, many dental offices offer tooth cleanings to patients. Employees also educate patients about proper self-care procedures like flossing and brushing teeth. Clinicians who detect crooked or overly spaced teeth or a misaligned bite in a patient may refer the individual to another clinical dentistry subspecialist: the orthodontist.
Another common area of focus in clinical dentistry is the creation and installation of tooth implants. Individuals with advanced tooth decay or injury may require one or more false teeth. Implant dentistry is responsible for these devices. Partial tooth-like materials may also be implanted in a patient as bridgework.
Teeth are not the exclusive focus of clinical dentistry. Other supportive structures in and around the mouth like the gums and the jawbones may also be studied and treated by dentists. Clinical periodontology is a dental subdiscipline devoted to these areas. Several diseases and conditions of the mouth area — such as wisdom tooth removal — necessitate surgical intervention as well, and these procedures are the domain of oral or maxillofacial surgeons.
Certification in clinical dentistry typically requires advanced education and graduation from an accredited dental school. Additional education and certification may be essential for specialization. Following graduation, many dentists opt to open private clinics, whereas others seek employment in a larger organization.