What Are the Different Types of Dentists & Dental Specialties?

What Are the Different Types of Dentists & Dental Specialties?
What type of dentist do you aspire to be? Take a look at our guide to find out how to choose the best dental specialty for you.

What is a Dental Specialty?

General practitioner dentists (or GDPs for short) provide primary care for the majority of basic dental needs. However, they sometimes need to refer patients to highly-trained specialists in cases where advanced treatment is required. There are many different types of dentists in the UK and the General Dental Council (GDC) has recognised thirteen dental specialties.

Do You Have to Study A Specialty?

The short answer – no. In the UK, dentists can practice professionally upon completion of their Foundation Training. Dentists are not required to study a specialty and most graduates choose to remain as general practitioners. Should a qualified dentist wish to pursue postgraduate education, specialty training is the next step.

What Are the Advantages of Pursuing a Dental Specialty?

Studying a specialty is a great opportunity to focus in on the most aspects of dentistry that appeal to you. You may also find that you have unique talents or qualities that would be useful within certain fields. By developing these specialist skills and knowledge, you will be in a unique position to help people who have advanced dental problems.   Dental specialists’ high level of training and specialist knowledge means that they will always be in demand and will enjoy excellent job prospects throughout their career. Specialist dentists enjoy a wide range of career options including working as a specialist in a general practice, in private care, or in a hospital. Alternatively, they can choose to continue their training. While general dental practitioners do earn a great salary, experienced specialist consultants have even better prospects with average salaries in the UK ranging from £76,761 to £103,490.

What is The Process for Specialty Training in the UK?

In order to be eligible for a specialist training programme in the UK, you will need to have a minimum of two years’ postgraduate experience. This includes 12 months of foundation training in general practice in addition to at least 12 months experience of hospital dentistry. Specialist training programmes in the UK have competitive entry, so applicants will face a rigorous assessment process which will vary from programme to programme. During the training period, the student will be assigned a clinical supervisor who will oversee their work and provide constructive feedback. Upon completion of the training programme, the trainee may sit the specialist examinations. On passing these exams, the successful candidate can then apply to be included on the GDC’s specialist list. While you do not have to join a specialist list to practice a specialty, you do have to join the list in order to use the ‘specialist’ title.

How Long Does It Take to Complete A Dental Specialty?

The length of your specialty training programme will depend on the type of dentist you want to be and the complexity of your chosen field. In the UK, specialist training lasts for a minimum of two to three years.

A List of The Different Types of Dentists & Dental Specialties

  1. Maxillofacial Radiology
Maxillofacial (i.e. relating to the jaws and face) radiologists diagnose disease through the use of medical imaging technology on the head, neck, jaws and teeth. They are trained to use a wide range of specialist equipment including x-rays, MRIs, PETs, CTs plus much more.

Average Training Duration: 4 years

  1. Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology
This is a lab-based specialty which focuses on the diagnosis and assessment of oral diseases through microscopic examination. Oral and maxillofacial diseases can sometimes indicate other serious health problems, so these specialists often have to develop knowledge of both oral health as well as diseases that affect the whole body.

Average Training Duration: 5 years

  1. Dental Public Health
Rather than focusing on treating individuals, dental public health consultants work to boost the oral health of communities. They achieve this through dental public health programmes. Dental public health is preventative in focus and aims to tackle oral disease by taking a more upstream approach. This field is ideal for those who wish to improve peoples’ quality of life and the standard of dental services on a bigger scale.

Average Training Duration: 4 years

  1. Endodontics

This specialist field involves the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries relating to the dental pulp. Endodontists are mainly known for providing root canals. To qualify for endodontics training, you will need to have at least two years’ professional experience.

Average Training Duration: 3 – 4 years

  1. Oral Medicine
Specialists in oral medicine treat patients who are suffering from chronic disorders of the mouth, salivary glands and jaws. This field brings together medicine and dentistry so many specialists have degrees in both fields.

Average Training Duration: 5 years 

  1. Oral Microbiology
Oral microbiologists are primarily lab-based specialists who work to diagnose and manage oral and maxillofacial infections. This is the smallest specialty in the UK, with only seven people registered on the GDC list. This area is perfect for those who enjoy the intellectual aspects of dentistry and who are passionate about learning.

Average Training Duration: 5+ years

  1. Oral Surgery
This field specialises in the treatment of patients who require surgical intervention on their mouth, teeth or jaws. This is a great area to get into if you have excellent manual dexterity and are seeking a more hands-on career. Oral surgeons are highly sought-after, so job prospects are bright.

Average Training Duration: 3 – 4 years

  1. Orthodontics

Orthodontists work to prevent and correct irregularities of the teeth, face and jaws such as overbite. They are experts at fitting braces and retainers. If you are business-minded, this could be a good fit as many orthodontists run their own practices.

Average Training Duration: 3 years

  1. Paediatric Dentistry
These specialists provide dental care to children from birth to adolescence. Unlike other specialties, paediatric dentistry is more multidisciplinary in nature and encompasses aspects of endodontics, surgery, and orthodontics. While this is a highly rewarding field, it does have its challenges as you may have to work with dental phobic or special needs patients.

Average Training Duration: 3 years

  1. Restorative Dentistry
The British Society for Restorative Dentistry define this specialism as “the study, examination and treatment of diseases of the oral cavity, the teeth and their supporting structures.” The purpose of restorative dentistry is the repair and restoration of individuals’ oral health. Restorative dentistry treatment is often multifaceted in nature, and as such specialists need to be trained in a range of areas such as prosthodontics, periodontics and endodontics.

Average Training Duration: 2 years

  1. Periodontics
A specialty within restorative dentistry, this discipline focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of advanced diseases and disorders relating to the gums. Patients who suffer from inflamed (i.e. red, sore, or bleeding) gums may be referred to a periodontist for treatment. Patience is a key quality for periodontists, as treatment outcome usually depends on patient behavioural factors.

Average Training Duration: 3 years

  1. Prosthodontics
Prosthodontists specialise in the restoration of missing teeth and the associated soft and hard tissues through the fitting of implants and prostheses (e.g. crowns, veneers, bridges, dentures). A highly practical and hands-on field, the best prosthodontists show a high level of attention to detail in their work.

Average Training Duration: 3 years

  1. Special Care Dentistry
These specialists treat those who need special care such as people with a physical, intellectual, mental, emotional or social impairment or disability. For example, you may have to travel to care homes to provide treatment to the elderly. This area is ideal for patient-focused dentists who are passionate about the social aspect of dentistry and who are motivated by doing good.

Average Training Duration: 3 years


Can You Study A Specialty Abroad?

There are plenty of universities across the world that offer specialist training programmes to international graduates from accredited dental schools. Study Medicine Europe has partnered with New Vision University in Georgia to offer the following dental specialist training programmes:

  • Therapeutic dentistry
  • Prosthetic dentistry
  • Orthodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
If you know what type of dentist you want to be and would like to find out more about how to apply to study a specialist dental programme abroad, please get in touch with our office today.