Definition: Dentistry is defined as the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment (nonsurgical, surgical or related procedures) of diseases, disorders and/or conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and/or the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body; provided by a dentist, within the scope of his/her education, training and experience, in accordance with the ethics of the professional and applicable law (as adopted by the 1997 American Dental Association [ADA] House of Delegates).1
Dentistry is an evolving art and science that can be a challenging discipline made more difficult if we do not work to constantly elevate our care, skill and judgment. The nine “specialties” of general dentistry, as recognized by the Council on Dental Education and Licensure within the ADA, create these specialties to define areas they feel require additional study or examination to perform at a definable level beyond that of a “generalist.” That being said, the practice of general dentistry and training received in dental school can hardly be sufficient to practice in today’s rapidly changing environment. Even board-certified specialists cannot rest on the laurels of their specialty certificate, especially if it was attained several years ago, since the research and advancements in dentistry have been enormous in scope over the last several years. If we, as general dentists, must perform all facets of dentistry and be held accountable — for legal, moral and ethical reasons — to the level of a specialist within the nine board-certified specialties, then it can be said that we must be specialists within our field.
There is tremendous political pressure to fight licensure by credential, dental implantology as a specialty,2 facial cosmetic enhancement with dermal fillers or cosmetic dentistry as a specialty, to name just a few of the hotbed issues within our field. It is beyond the scope of this article to address these issues; however, to aspire to treat our patient demographic in the most professional and responsible manner, general dentistry should be thought of as a “specialty.” The result of increased continuing education within and beyond the labeled specialty designations will result in a renewed joy within our profession, as well as a deep gratitude within our patient base and strengthened collaboration with our colleagues with board certifications.
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Before: Preoperative photo with smile display showing multiple diastemata. After: Full-face view after cementation.
The author would like to thank Leonard Machi, DDS, for the surgical expertise he provided as well as the mentorship in treatment planning necessary in this case.