According to the American Board of Endodontists, an endodontist is a dentist specialized in treating diseases and injuries to the dental pulp (nerve), root and surrounding tissues of the teeth. It comes from the Greek words endo meaning “inside” and odont meaning “tooth.” Surprisingly, less than 3% of dentists go on to become endodontists. Endodontists receive a "certificate in Endodontics" after two to three years of additional training in an accredited dental program after dental school. This training focuses on diagnosing tooth pain and performing root canal treatment and other procedures relating to the inside part of the tooth. In many cases, endodontists can save a diseased tooth, which is why many refer themselves as “Specialists in Saving Teeth.”
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are regional specialist surgeons who treat diseases, injuries, and defects in the mouth, jaws, forehead, cheekbone, face, skull, and regional hard and soft tissues in the oral (mouth) and maxillofacial (jaws and face) regions. They are skilled at the diagnosis and surgical management of both the functional and aesthetic aspects of those facial areas. They perform procedures ranging from the removal of impacted teeth to the repair of facial trauma. The injuries to the face, which range from burns, lacerations and bruises, often involve soft tissue damage and fractures to the face, nose, and jaw.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons must go through 4-6 years of additional training after graduating from dental school. In the U.S., 4-year residency programs grant a certificate of specialty training in oral and maxillofacial surgery, while 6-year programs grant the specialty certificate and a medical or research degree.
These surgeons perform many tasks in their practice. They administer general and local anesthetics, remove impacted, damaged, and non-restorable teeth, and evaluate the position of wisdom teeth to determine whether there are existing or potential problems that might occur in the future. In addition, they can remove tumors or other abnormal growths, treat ulcers and infections, and perform surgery to prepare the mouth for dental implants. Often times, the surgical procedures involve restoring form and function by moving skin, bone, nerves, and other tissues from other parts of the body to reconstruct the jaws and face.
The surgeons also perform cosmetic procedures as well. Not only do they treat conditions such as cleft lip and palate and jaw growth problems, they also do chin and cheek- bone enhancements, and minor facial rejuvenation procedures which may use Botox or laser technology. In emergency situations, they are able to provide treatment of facial injuries including facial and intra-oral lacerations and fractured facial bones.
Periodontics is the study of supporting structures of teeth, as well as diseases and conditions that affect them. It comes from two Greek words, peri meaning “around” and odont meaning “tooth.” The focus is solely on the inflammatory disease that destroys the gums and other supporting structures around the teeth.
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease and are also trained to place, maintain, and repair dental implants. They went through three additional years of education after dental school. The periodontist first examines the gums and checks to see if there is any gum line recession, evaluates how the teeth fit together when biting, and checks the teeth to see if any are loose. He will also take a probe and place it between the teeth and gums to determine the depth of those spaces, known as periodontal pockets; this helps him assess the health of the gums. Many times, X-rays are taken to determine the health of the bone below the gum line.
Periodontists treat cases ranging from mild gingivitis to more severe periodontitis. They offer a variety of treatments, such as scaling and root planing (in which the infected surface of the root is cleaned), root surface debridement (in which damaged tissue is removed), and regenerative procedures (in which damaged tooth structures are replaced). When necessary, periodontists can also perform surgical procedures for patients with severe gum disease.