6. Your Friend, The DentistContributed by:
Dr. Wong Foot Meow
BDS, FDSRCPS, FICD, AM Oral Surgeon
Dentistry is that sub speciality of the health profession involved in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the teeth and mouth. Your friend, the dentist is a person with the education, experience, expertise and qualifications in practise dentistry. The practice of dentistry in its simplest form includes cleaning, filling and extraction of teeth. Included are the treatment of diseased gum tissues, correcting irregularities in tooth alignment, performing surgical operations on the mouth or jaw and the fabrication of artificial teeth and dentures.
Why Visit the dentist?
Most dentists are general practitioners in all fields of dentistry performing the following tasks on a routine basis :
- Periodic examination (at least once a year), including the use of dental x-rays with special instrument and tests are done to detect dental problems.
- Scaling where incrustation of calculus (tartar) are remove from the teeth at least once a year.
- Cavities in the teeth are filled with one of various appropriate materials.
- Badly broken down teeth may require root canal therapy (removal of pulp) and capping (crowns).
- Non restorable teeth are extracted.
- Missing teeth may need to be replaced by artificial ones.
- Aesthetic dentistry to improve your smile.
- Braces to straighten your teeth.
Dentistry is subdivided into many specialized fields. Your friend the dentist / general practitioner may undertake as many of them as his or her interest and capabilities permit. The Ministry of Health recognizes a dental subspecialities.
1. Oral Surgery
This branch of dental practice deals with the diagnosis and surgical treatment of any disease, injury or malformation of the jaw and associated structures. The oral surgeon fixes fractures of the jaws ( usually from motor vehicle accidents ), routinely removes wisdom teeth and performs oral surgery within the mouth.
Orthodontists deal with malocclusion which consists of irregularities in tooth position and jaw relationships. By applying special devices (braces) and appliances to the teeth, a set of good looking, even teeth and occlusion can be affected.
The prosthodontist provides artificial substitutes ( removable or fixed dentures ) for missing teeth. Used increasingly frequently nowadays for tooth replacement is the dental implant, where titanium screws are drilled into the jaw bone to provide support for missing teeth.
The periodontist take care of the supporting structures and tissues surrounding the teeth. Gum treatment may involve scaling, excision of infected gum tissue and guided tissue regeneration of bone of affected teeth.
The endodontist deals with removal of the dental pulp (nerve) from the pulp chamber and root canal of teeth within diseased pulp. This helps preserve teeth which may otherwise have to be extracted.
6. Paediatric Dentistry
The paedodontists treat dental problems in children performing both restorative and preventive procedures.
7. Oral Pathology
Oral pathologist diagnose oral diseases through the use of laboratory tests and microscopic examination of tissues. The input from the oral pathologist may help the dentist prepare a treatment plan to deal with the problem.
8. Public Health Dentistry
This field deals with prevention and control of dental disease plus the promotion of dental health through organised community efforts.
In Malaysia, dentists are organised into the Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) which is the umbrella body for all dental surgeons from the various private and government bodies i.e. Ministry of Health, Universities, private practitioners and Armed Forces. The Oral Health Week is a collaboration of efforts from all these bodies. The MDA publishes newsletters, journals and some patient education materials. The MDA serves the profession by promoting continuing dental education, accreditates dental instruments and materials used in dentistry.
Dentistry entails a 4-5 year course of study at one of the dental faculties i.e. University of Malaya, University Kebangsaan (starting 1997) and Unimas Sarawak (starting 1998). In addition 2 private dental colleges also offer this course. Dentistry may also be pursued overseas. The student graduates with the degree of B.D.S. (Bachelor of Dental Surgery). Dentists must first register with the Malaysian Dental Council and obtain an Annual Practising Certificate (APC) before commencing dental practice.