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MouthHealthy: ADA's Award-Winning Consumer Website


MouthHealthy.org has information you need to take better care of your mouth today so it will take care of you for life.

 

Visit your life stage and find healthy habits, top concerns, nutrition and fact or fiction information:

Visit Mouthhealty.org

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Welcome to the premier source for oral health news and information.

For patient information, including products that have earned the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance and the Top Ten Dental Symptoms, visit MouthHealthy.org

Mouthhealthy.orgMouthHealthy.org Resources

Lifestages

Learn about dental issues for every member of your family, whether they’re 8 months or 80 years old. Each section from Pregnancy through Adults Over 60 covers dental health concerns, healthy habits, and nutrition tips targeted to each life stage.  
  

Dental Health Topics from A-Z

Have a question about your dental health? Search over 120 topics to learn and watch videos about different dental issues and discover how you can prevent and/or treat these issues.  

ADA Seal of Acceptance

ada_sealThere are so many dental care products on the store shelves, how do you decide what’s best for you and your family … favorite brand, lowest price, great flavor, safe and effective? The ADA Seal of Acceptance database can help you narrow down your search for oral health products that do exactly what they claim under a Seal you can trust.    

Nutrition

Making wise food and beverage choices are good for your entire body as well as helping you maintain healthy teeth and gums. Learn about foods that could help – or harm your dental health

 

More Resources

To view additional information, please visit the following pages:

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General dentists are responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of a patient’s oral health. General dentists are trained in all dental procedures but choose not to specialize in only one specific area of dentistry. Dental specialists are dentists who have received additional education and training after receiving licensure as a general dentist. A dental education also gives you access to other career paths, like working in a hospital emergency room, conducting advanced laboratory research, teaching future dentists or even traveling the world with international health and relief organizations.

Top 10 Reasons to Become a Dentist

  • Serve Others:  Help people maintain and improve their oral health, quality of life and appearance
  • Balance Your Lifestyle:  Dentistry offers flexibility to balance professional and personal life
  • Empower Your Patients:  Give patients smiles they are proud to wear
  • Research:  Be involved with the scientific advancement of dentistry
  • Be a Leader:  Earn respect from your family, friends and community
  • Educate:  Be an educator on the importance of oral health
  • Detect Disease:  Treat oral health and detect disease - including cancer and cardiovascular disease
  • Be Creative:  Merge your artistic and scientific talents
  • Succeed:  With the aging population and increase in access to care, the demand and need for dentistry is on the rise
  • Choose Your Practice Model:  Own a dental practice and set your own schedule or become an associate in a group practice.

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The American Dental Association compiled a comprehensive list of oral health topics, which will provide you with information and resources about various issues related to you and your family's oral health care.

Oral Health Topics

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Dentistry

General dentists are responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of a patient’s oral health. General dentists are trained in all dental procedures but choose not to specialize in only one specific area of dentistry. Dental specialists are dentists who have received additional education and training after receiving licensure as a general dentist. A dental education also gives you access to other career paths, like working in a hospital emergency room, conducting advanced laboratory research, teaching future dentists or even traveling the world with international health and relief organizations.

 

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What Do Dentists Do?

Dentists: Doctors of Oral Health

Most Americans today enjoy excellent oral health and are keeping their natural teeth throughout their lives. But this is not the case for everyone. Cavities are still the most prevalent chronic disease of childhood and millions of Americans did not see a dentist in the past year, even though regular dental examinations and good oral hygiene can prevent most dental disease.

Too many people mistakenly believe that they need to see a dentist only if they are in pain or think something is wrong, but they’re missing the bigger picture. A dental visit means being examined by a doctor of oral health capable of diagnosing and treating conditions that can range from routine to extremely complex.

The American Dental Association believes that a better understanding of the intensive academic and clinical education that dentists undergo, their role in delivering oral health care and, most important, the degree to which dental disease is almost entirely preventable is essential to ensuring that more Americans enjoy the lifelong benefits of good oral health.

The Dentist’s Role

Dentists are doctors who specialize in oral health. Their responsibilities include:

  • Diagnosing oral diseases
  • Creating Treatment Plans to maintain or restore the oral health of their patients.
  • Interpreting x-rays and diagnostic tests
  • Ensuring the safe administration of anesthetics
  • Monitoring growth and development of the teeth and jaws
  • Performing surgical procedures on the teeth, bone and soft tissues of the oral cavity.
  • Managing oral trauma and other emergency situations

A Team Approach

The team approach to dentistry promotes continuity of care that is comprehensive, convenient, cost effective and efficient. Members of the team include dental assistants, lab technicians and dental hygienists. Leading the team is the dentist, a doctor specializing in oral health who has earned either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree, which are essentially the same. Dentists’ oversight of the clinical team is critical to ensuring safe and effective oral care.

Education and Clinical Training

The level of education and clinical training required to earn a dental degree, and the high academic standards of dental schools, are on par with those of medical schools, and are essential to preparing dentists for the safe and effective practice of modern oral health care.

Most dental students have earned Bachelor of Science Degrees or the equivalent, and all have passed rigorous admissions examinations.

The curricula during the first two years of dental and medical schools are essentially the same – students must complete such biomedical science courses as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, immunology and pathology. During the second two years, dental students’ coursework focuses on clinical practice – diagnosing and treating oral diseases. After earning their undergraduate and dental degrees (eight years for most) many dentists continue their education and training to achieve certification in one of nine recognized dental specialties.

Upon completing their training, dentists must pass both a rigorous national written examination and a state or regional clinical licensing exam in order to practice. As a condition of licensure, they must meet continuing education requirements for the remainder to their careers, to keep them up-to-date on the latest scientific and clinical developments.

As doctors of oral health, dentists must be able to diagnose and treat a range of conditions and know how to deal with complications – some of which are potentially life-threatening.

More than Just Teeth and Gums

Dentists’ areas of care include not only their patients’ teeth and gums but also the muscles of the head, neck and jaw, the tongue, salivary glands, and the nervous system of the head and neck. During a comprehensive exam, dentists examine the teeth and gums, but they also look for lumps, swellings, discolorations, ulcerations – any abnormality. When appropriate, they perform procedures such as biopsies, diagnostic tests for chronic or infectious diseases, salivary gland function, and screening tests for oral cancer. In addition, dentists can spot early warning signs in the mouth that may indicate disease elsewhere in the body. Dentists’ training also enables them to recognize situations that warrant referring patients for care by dental specialists or physicians.

Why Oral Health Matters

Numerous recent scientific studies indicate associations between oral health and a variety of general health conditions – including diabetes and heart disease. In response, the World Health Organization has integrated oral health into its chronic disease prevention efforts “as the risks to health are linked”

The American Dental Association recommends that dental visits begin no later than a child’s first birthday to establish a “dental home”. Dentists can provide guidance to children and parents, deliver preventive oral health services, and diagnose and treat dental disease in its earliest stages. This ongoing dental care will help b oth children and adults maintain optimal oral health throughout their lifetimes.

Together, we can work to improve America's oral health and give all of us something to smile about.

Years of Specialty Training Beyond a Four-Year Dental Degree

  • Pediatric Dentistry - Oral health care needs of infants and children through adolescence – Schooling lasts 25 months after dental school
  • Endodontics - Health of dental pulp, the soft core of teeth, specializes in performing root canals – Schooling lasts 26 months after dental school
  • Periodontics – Treats diseases of the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth – Schooling lasts 35 months after dental school
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics – Correcting dental and facial irregularities – Schooling lasts 30 months after dental school
  • Prosthodontics – Restoring natural teeth or replacing missing teeth or oral structures with artificial devices, such as dentures – Schooling lasts 32 months after dental school
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery – Surgical Treatment of disease and injuries of the mouth – Schooling lasts 54 months to 72 months after dental school
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology – Diseases of the mouth, teeth and surrounding regions – Schooling lasts 37 months after dental school
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology – X-rays and other forms of imaging used for diagnosis and management of oral diseases and disorders – Schooling lasts 30 months after dental school
  • Dental Public Health – Preventing dental disease through organized community efforts – Schooling lasts 15 months after dental school

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Why Should I See a Dentist?

Oral health is an important part of your overall health. Regular dental visits are important because they can help spot oral health problems early on when treatment is likely to be simpler and more affordable. They also help prevent many oral problems from developing in the first place. Visiting your dentist regularly is also important because some diseases or medical conditions have symptoms that can appear in the mouth.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, your dentist has implemented new protocols to make your visits as safe as possible, so you can continue with your regular dental visits. Learn more about how your dentist is keeping you and dental staff safe at MouthHealthy.org/backtodentist

Here are 15 signs you should see a dentist:

  • Your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold
  • Your gums are puffy and/or they bleed when you brush or floss
  • You have fillingscrowns, dental implants, or dentures
  • You don’t like the way your smile or teeth look
  • You have persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
  • You are pregnant
  • You have pain or swelling in your mouth, face or neck
  • You have difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • You have a family history of gum disease or tooth decay
  • You have a medical condition such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, eating disorders, or are HIV positive
  • Your mouth is often dry
  • You smoke or use other tobacco products
  • You are undergoing medical treatment such as radiation, chemotherapy or hormone replacement therapy
  • Your jaw sometimes pops or is painful when opening and closing, chewing or when you first wake up; you have an uneven bite
  • You have a spot or sore that doesn’t look or feel right in your mouth and it isn’t going away.