Types of Dentistry

If becoming a dentist and spending your days looking at other people's teeth and solving dental problems sounds like your ideal career, then you have several ADA specialties that may fit your passions.  Or, if you are a patient looking for the best dentist for your oral care, then you may want to choose a dentist who is practicing a specific ADA specialty.

Dentistry in general

Dentistry covers a wide range of studies, including the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area, and surrounding structures.  This includes both surgical and nonsurgical procedures and how different diseases and disorders affect the teeth and the rest of the body.  It also includes the training and experience in the ethics and laws that pertain to the realm of dentistry.

Within the realm of dentistry, there are several subdivisions that make up the different ADA specialties. Here is a brief look at the different ADA specialties and the type of dental care that is associated with each specialty.

Dental Public Health

Dental public health is one of the ADA specialties that manages the prevention and control of dental diseases.  This is accomplished by promoting good dental health practices throughout the community. Dentists in this ADA specialty focus on the community as a whole, instead of one individual, and they work to provide dental health education and administer dental care programs.


Endodontics is one of the ADA specialties that focus on the human dental pulp and periradicular tissue.  It includes the study of the normal pulp, as well as the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases and injuries that involve the dental pulp.  These dentists specialize in root canal surgery and therapy, especially for patients with difficult cases.

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology

Oral and maxillofacial pathology is an ADA specialties that merges together dentistry and pathology – focusing on diseases that affect the oral and maxillofacial regions.  This includes the causes and courses of these diseases, as well as research and diagnosis using various examinations.

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology

Oral and maxillofacial radiology is akin to its pathology partner, but this specialty utilizes radiology to create and interpret images of the oral, neck, and facial regions.  Through radiological analysis, such as CT Scans, MRI, Ultrasounds, and Orthopantomograms, this ADA specialty works to diagnose and manage various oral diseases and underlying conditions. 

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Taking the ADA specialty one step further, oral and maxillofacial surgeons treat defects, diseases, and injuries of the jaw, mouth, skull, and even face.  These surgeons have dentistry training, as well as surgical specialty.  They have an ability to treat both the hard and soft tissues of these areas, and can pertain to both functional aspects as well as aesthetic ones.  Patients that would see an oral and maxillofacial surgery may require dental surgery, lip reconstruction, cleft and palate surgeries, and TMJ treatment. 

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics

Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics is the ADA specialty that focuses on the neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities of orofacial structures. This includes diagnosis, preventing, and corrections of malocclusions and other problems.  Most people commonly associate orthodontics with corrective braces, but they also can treat and manage other oral issues.

Pediatric Dentistry

Pediatric dentistry is an ADA specialty that works with infants, children, and adolescents. It focuses on both preventative and therapeutic care, including dental care for children with special dental health needs.  Considering that children and adults have different health needs, pediatric dentistry ensures that younger patients get the specialized care needed for optimal oral health.


Periodontics is one of the ADA specialties that manages the areas that support the tooth structure – treating any of the diseases and conditions that impact these regions.  Periodontal diseases have different manifestations, but some common forms are gingivitis, which untreated can deteriorate the tooth and bone area.  Periodontics includes diagnosing, preventing, and treating diseases, as well as assisting patients with maintaining the function, looks, and health of these structures.


The ADA specialty of prosthodontics focuses on patients that have missing or deficient teeth.  Specialized in implants, reconstructive, and esthetic dentistry, prosthodontists work to restore the full oral function of teeth and its support areas.  This includes the diagnosis of problems, as well as the rehabilitation of oral effectiveness and the maintenance of prosthetics that are placed.
For dental patients, different ADA specialties can help insure that you find a dentist that is properly trained to care for your individual teeth and dental problems.

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