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Smile Michigan Public

About Our Members

Michigan Dental Association Dentists:
Looking Out for More than Your Smile

Most of us think of our dentist and physician as two completely different kinds of health professionals. But in reality, your dentist is a doctor — a highly trained doctor of oral health.

Your dentist is an important member of your health care team, someone who works with you to maintain your oral health as well as your overall health. In fact, your dentist is a doctor who specializes in more than teeth and gums. Dentists are trained to:

  • perform comprehensive oral examinations;
  • diagnose oral diseases;
  • interpret X-rays and other diagnostic tests;
  • create treatment plans to maintain or restore each patient’s oral health;
  • perform surgical procedures in teeth, bone and soft tissues of the mouth/oral cavity;
  • treat facial pain and oral trauma;
  • monitor the growth and development of teeth and jaws; and
  • provide preventive care such as sealants, fluoride applications and teeth cleaning.

In addition to teeth and gums, dentists are trained to treat the muscles and nerves of the head, neck, jaw, tongue and salivary glands.

Your healthy body starts with an oral exam

A comprehensive oral examination starts with your dentist examining your teeth and gums, screening for oral cancer, and looking for abnormalities inside and outside your mouth such as lumps, swellings, stains, sores and unusual spots.

Dentists also look for early warning signs that may signal problems elsewhere in the body. Their training gives them the knowledge and skills to recognize conditions that call for a referral to dental specialists or physicians.

A dentist’s education and training

After earning a four-year undergraduate degree, students go through the rigorous acceptance process into dental school. You may be surprised to know the first two years of dental school are the same as the first two years of medical school, as students complete courses in biomedical sciences including anatomy and biochemistry.

Following four years of dental school, many dentists continue their education and training in advanced general dentistry or in one of seven dental specialties — such as oral surgery, orthodontics, pediatrics, periodontics, endodontics, prosthodontics and oral pathology. These require between two and four or more years of specialized training.

To be licensed to practice dentistry in Michigan, dentists must successfully complete both the written and clinical exams of the Northeast Regional Board of Dental Examiners. To practice as a dental specialist, additional exams are required. Even after that, Michigan state law requires every dentist to complete a minimum of 60 hours of continuing education, in addition to CPR certification, every three years to be re-licensed.

Trust your care to a Michigan Dental Association dentist! Now you know why your Michigan Dental Association member — a doctor of oral health — is so important to your overall health. So each time you land in the dental chair, whether for your six-month appointment or another reason, you can rest assured you’re in good hands.

A healthy body starts with a healthy mouth — and your Michigan Dental Association dentist!

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