The dentist is licensed by the Michigan Board of Dentistry to practice dentistry. The degrees D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery), and D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same. The difference is only a matter of semantics. The majority of dental schools award the D.D.S. degree; however, some award a D.M.D. degree. The education and degrees are the same.

A general dentist is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of all dental services related to an individual’s oral health. These dentists are trained on all dental procedures, choosing 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.

For more information on how to become a dentist, please visit the American Dental Association Web site.

What are the Dental Specialties?

Most of the time, the word “dentist” is the only one you need to know in reference to your oral health. Every once in a while, though, you need a specialist. Ever wonder what that terminology your dentist rattles off means? Here’s the lowdown.


An endodontist takes care of you when you need a root canal. But that’s not all endondontists do – they also deal with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of other diseases and injuries to the pulp, which is the internal soft tissue of the tooth.

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology:

This type of specialist helps to diagnose a wide variety of diseases in the head and neck through the use of X-rays, computed tomographic investigations (CT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), and other imaging technologies.

Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon:

This one’s an easy one. An oral surgeon diagnoses and operates on disease, injuries and defects in the mouth, jaw and face, generally through surgical extraction and reconstruction.

Oral Pathologist:

An oral pathologist deals with the identification and management of diseases that affect your mouth and face. These specialists rely on clinical, radiographic, microscopic and biochemical examinations for diagnosis.


If your dentist says you need to see an orthodontist, it means you have some irregular dental development, missing teeth or other developmental abnormalities that are in need of correction. Chances are you’ll be fitted for braces, a frequently relied upon treatment designed to establish normal function and appearance of your teeth and jaws.

Pediatric Dentist:

A pediatric dentist specializes in providing comprehensive dental treatment to children, adolescents and young adults.


If your dentist thinks you have a disease that could seriously damage your gums, bone or other tissues that support your teeth, she’ll send you to a periodontist for diagnosis and treatment.


If you need to have a missing tooth or other oral structure replaced, your dentist will refer you to a prosthodontist.