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Dental Specializations

You're now not only in dental school but you're feeling like a dentist. Many of you probably already knew that you wanted to do a specialty after dental school. Many knew which one and some of you still aren't sure which specialty or if a specialty.

Although you'll find that most of the people in your class who are in the top are aiming for a specialty program, you should still consider it if you are interested. Below are a description of the specialty programs, including the length of each, the typical training involved and what you need to get into these programs. Keep in mind these are general aspects of each specialty.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS)

Without a doubt most people believe that OMFS is all about removing impacted wisdom teeth. Although that's part of the specialty, Oral surgeons are trained in far more than just extracting teeth. You will be trained to do facial reconstruction and trauma cases. Many oral surgeons are performing complicated surgeries that plastic and reconstructive surgeons were known to perform. Patients who have gone through a trauma are now turning to oral surgeons because, unlike other medical surgeons, oral surgeons will keep the patients dental health at the forefront of treatment.

After completing dental, most oral surgery candidates are in the top 10 to 15% of their class. In addition to having a high class rank, candidates generally have high NDBE part I and II scores (Above 90 percentile). Generally, most spots for oral surgery residents are limited, with an entire team of only 18. That means some schools only accept 2 or 3 candidates a year. Naturally, this makes the residency very competitive.

However, not all oral surgery programs are the same. There are some that are 4 yrs and others that are 6 years. Generally, the programs that are 6 years will grant an M.D since you will also compete the medical rotations requirement. Regardless of which program you take, you will receive training in anesthesiology, general surgery and further oral surgery, which will prepare you for complicated surgery cases. In addition, there are even further specialization programs if you wish to become a pediatric oral surgeon. For further information visit the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons website at http://www.aaoms.org

Orthodontics (also known as Dentofacial Orthopedics)

This has become the most competitive and sought after specialty. The reason for high interest in orthodontics stems from the blend of creativity and providing proper dentition and bite. Majority of the patients an orthodontist will see are children.

With the number of children getting braces and having adjustments made, orthodontics is an ideal specialty for dentists who like to work with children and see changes that will not only effect the child's oral structures but also confidence.

Nowadays, orthodontists are also seeing many adult patients who wish to correct and enhance their smile too. A residency in orthodontics is generally between 2.5 to 3 years long and involves extensive training in orthodontics. For further information please visit the American Association of Orthodontics at http://www.aaortho.org.


Although not as competitive as orthodontics, Endodontics has experienced an increase in applicants in the last few years. With many dentists realizing that there is no substitute for natural dentition, endodontists are the "lifesavers" of dental structures. Endodontics is the specialty dedicated to saving a dying tooth by surgically removing the dying nerve. When the endodontist excavates the tooth, they also protect the remaining structure by removing any pathologies and decaying tissue.

Often times, even with heroic dentistry a crown will be used to protect the already weak structure. Just like orthodontics, Endodontics is a 2.5 to 3 years long residency. To learn more about the history and field of Endodontics visit the American Endodontics Society at http://www.aesoc.org. (Find out the criteria and course work stresses on) *** (Average income)


This is the branch of dentistry devoted to protecting and saving the gingival tissue (gums) and the bone. Like endodontists, periodontists are another specialist of dentistry that most patients see once their tissue are already damaged and need a great deal of recovery. Also like endodontics, periodontics involves saving the dental structures but instead of the direct dental structure periodontics secures the surrounding of the teeth. Again like orthodontics and endodontics, periodontics has a 3 year residency. As the population continues to age and retain many of their permanent dentition, periodontists are becoming more important. Including protecting the tissues, periodontists are also performing a great deal of surgery to remove decaying and dying tissue. For further information on periodontics visit http://www.perio.org


Not to be confused as a combination of periodontics and endodontics. Pedodontics is the specialty of dentistry devoted to children. Yes, there is a specialty devoted to children, and it's more than just fillings. Pediatric dentistry is devoted to assuaging the fearful pediatric patients (even some adult patients), performing surgery on children with severe illnesses, admitting children to the hospital and dealing with complicated cases.

To dispel the myth that children as just little adults with fewer teeth, pedodontists are trained to perform extensive dentistry on children, including palatial surgeries, cleft palates etc. With residencies that vary between 18 and 24 months, pedodontics or pediatric dentistry is one of the shorter residencies, while still greatly rewarding. Please visit http://www.aapd.org. (criteria and ave. income)


This is another specialty that many people overlook. Prosthodontics is devoted to creating prosthetic appliances. This includes dentures, bridges, implants, etc.

Although much of society believes that only elder patients need to see a prosthodontist, this couldn't be further than the truth. Many trauma patients regularly see prosthodontists. www.prosthodontics.org (criteria and ave.income)

General Practice Residency (GPR)

Although not considered to be a specialty, the GPR is becoming much more popular. Students who wish to continue their dental education for a year after dental school to further enhance their capabilities opt to pursue a GPR. Although programs vary, generally a GPR is geared towards giving the dentist a wide variety of complex cases. This makes the general dentistry which most dentists perform become much easier, stable and elementary, since they have tackled many more complex cases.

Although there are many GPR seats in various settings, to get your choice you should still be in the top of your class and score well on the NDBE. Also most GPRs are done in a teaching hospital setting, and are geared towards giving the dentist intensive hospital experience. A GPR gets the dentist further exposure to general medicine, general surgery and anesthesiology (criteria and avg. income)

Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD)

Although an AEGD is very similar to a GPR, they are not the same. Just like a GPR, an AEGD is becoming more popular and offers students advanced training after dental school to become more efficient, confident and skilled practitioners of dental medicine. Again, students pursuing an AEGD should be in the top of their dental class and score well on the NDBEs to obtain ideal placement. ***

Although these are the more popular and well known specialties in dentistry, most students (even those in dental school) don't realize that there are other specialties that are researched based. Within the profession of dentistry there are options to pursue advanced degrees in a master in public health or even a combined PhD. In addition there are other specialties such as Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology and Dental Public Health. Each of these are post-doctorate residency programs that give the dentist further training in specific areas.

Now for those of you who are considering a post doctorate specialty, just like in undergrad, getting exposure to that specialty is key. Many programs like to see research in addition to high NDBE I and II, and GPAs. Again, just as if you were applying to dental school, you will have to submit a primary application. Instead of using AADSAS there is a specific service called PASS/MATCH. Again the process is very much like applying to dental school, you will need letters of recommendation, really good GPA, and great NDBE scores. Again you will have interviews. But then its an investment in your training and education, so its always worth it.

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