When we think about dental care, we always relate it to the face of a dentist. But nowadays, dentist’s work is supported by various other professionals in the practice such as receptionist, assistant, sometimes an anesthesiologist, and so on. Moreover, dentists can specialize in different areas of dental medicine, thus performing absolutely different treatments from one another.
We explored the awareness of 9,194 respondents globally about the great variety of dental professions.
See people’s opinions on these and many more matters to check how they compare to the actual facts.
#1: You can work in a dental office even if you are not a dentist: FACT
A whole lot of people (41% of respondents, to be precise) truly believe that only dentists can work in a dental office.
And even though one-man practices still exist, most dentists nowadays prefer to hire an assistant to ensure the treatments go smoothly and efficiently, and potentially a receptionist to welcome patients and handle the schedule, insurance, bills. For both professions, a medical university degree is not required in most parts of the world. Interestingly, dental assistants e.g. are in very high demand, projected to grow by 18% by 2024 – much faster than the average for other occupations in the medical field.
#2: Endodontists are specialized in root canal treatments: FACT
After they graduate from dental medicine, a lot of dentists decide to specialize in a certain field of dentistry. Endodontics is one narrow example that covers root canal treatments. And although one-third of DentaVox survey respondents seem unsure about the definition of an endodontist, the majority still recognizes it correctly.
But what are the other most common specializations? Here is a quick list.
#3: Dental implants can only be placed by implantologists: MYTH
Does making a filling and setting an implant requires the same knowledge and skill set? Well, certainly not. Although both are usually well covered in every dental degree, becoming a real dental implantologist requires further treatment and experience due to the specifics and complexity of the surgery. Half of the DentaVox respondents even think that only implantologist can place dental implants. However, in a lot of countries, general dentists are allowed and tend to offer this service along with the full range of dental treatments.
A piece of advice, though: When you choose a dentist for implantology treatments, always consider their experience. Dental implantologists are more likely to have focused expertise and solid background specifically in implant dentistry.
#4: Pediatric dentists do not have the skills to treat adults: MYTH
Pediatric dentists have the same dental degree education as general dentists but on top, they have specialized in caring for children’s teeth throughout all stages of childhood, and – more importantly – have learned and developed tricks for calming down the youngest patients.
The majority of our survey participants (71%) correctly pointed out that this doesn’t mean that pediatric dentists do not have the skills to treat adults. They have just chosen a narrowly focused career path.
#5: Orthodontists cannot treat tooth decay: MYTH
Interestingly, 24% of DentaVox respondents believe that orthodontists are simply unable to treat cavities. But in the common case, this is not true. They are qualified to treat tooth decay and to perform other general dental procedures but they have just branched out in a particular field, namely teeth straightening via all kinds of devices such as wires, braces, aligners.
#6: Dental hygienist means someone who cleans the treatment room: MYTH
One-fourth of survey participants think that being a dental hygienist means cleaning the dental office. In fact, dental hygienists are licensed dental professionals, registered with a dental association or regulatory body and qualified to work both independently and alongside dentists.
This expected language confusion is probably also supported by the fact that not all countries have regulated the profession. Wherever this is a lawful job, typical tasks of dental hygienists include teeth cleaning, periodontal charting, taking intraoral radiographs, applying sealants and topical fluoride.
#7: Sterilizing the tools is a typical responsibility for dental assistants: FACT
Dental assistants are correctly recognized by the vast majority (86%) as the professionals are responsible for the sterilization of the dental tools. And this is, in fact, true.
Although regulations and guidelines differ from country to country, we summarized the typical tasks of dental assistants in the image below.
#8: Dental technicians assist the dentists during treatments: MYTH
Hygienists, assistants, technicians – how many dental professionals are there, you might already ask yourself. This topic is obviously confusing for DentaVox respondents, as most of them (72%) pointed out that dental technicians are the ones who assist dentists during treatment.
In fact, dental technicians, also called dental laboratory technicians, are the members of the dental team that – upon prescription from a dental clinician – construct custom-made tooth restorations such as crowns, bridges, and dentures. Therefore, in a lot of cases, they are not even inside the dental practice as dentists usually work with completely separate external dental laboratories.
#9: Dental therapists are primarily focused on prevention: FACT
With the growing awareness that dental disease prevention is crucially important to the wellbeing of the global population, more and more prevention-focused practices appear. Moreover, in some countries such as Australia, New Zealand, UK, and the USA, a profession entirely focused on preventative services has emerged – dental or oral health therapist. And over 60% of the survey participants seem fully aware of its narrow focus.
#10: Dentists are not obliged to hire a receptionist: FACT
To finalize our journey around the world of dental professions, we will go back to the beginning, to the first person who usually greets patients upon entering the practice – the receptionist. But are dentists obligated to have one? Respondents are hesitant with nearly half of them believing so.
In reality, receptionists can largely ease the work of the dentists by handling all the bureaucratic matters and delivering good patient service but their presence in every dental office is not required by regulatory bodies.
Which of those myths and facts were you aware of?
Share in the comments below!
You don’t feel like commenting? While you are still on the topic, why don’t you:
Stats source: DentaVox, 20 Questions: Dental Professions
Base: 9,194 respondents (global sample)