Dentistry, also known as Dental and Oral Medicine, is a branch of medicine that consists of the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders, and conditions of the oral cavity, commonly in the dentition but also the oral mucosa, and of adjacent and related structures and tissues, particularly in the maxillofacial (jaw and facial) area. Although primarily associated with teeth among the general public, the field of dentistry or dental medicine is not limited to teeth but includes other aspects of the craniofacial complex including the temporomandibular joint and other supporting, muscular, lymphatic, nervous, vascular, and anatomical structures.
Dentistry is often also understood to subsume the now largely defunct medical specialty of stomatology (the study of the mouth and its disorders and diseases) for which reason the two terms are used interchangeably in certain regions.[where?]
Dental caries, also described as tooth decay or dental cavities, is an infectious disease which damages the structures of teeth. The disease can lead to pain, tooth loss, infection, and, in severe cases, death. An estimated 90% of schoolchildren worldwide and most adults have experienced cavities, with the disease being most prevalent in Asian and Latin American countries and least prevalent in African countries. In the United States, dental caries is the most common chronic childhood disease, being at least five times more common than asthma. It is the primary cause of tooth loss in children. Between 29% and 59% of adults over the age of fifty experience caries.
There are numerous ways to classify dental caries, but the risk factors and development among distinct types of caries remain largely similar. Tooth decay is caused by certain types of acid-producing bacteria which cause the most damage in the presence of fermentablecarbohydrates such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose. The resulting acidic levels in the mouth affect teeth because a tooth's special mineral content causes it to be sensitive to low pH. Depending on the extent of tooth destruction, various treatments can be used to restore teeth to proper form, function, and aesthetics, but there is no known method to regenerate large amounts of tooth structure. Instead, dental health organizations advocate preventative measures, such as regular oral hygiene and dietary modifications, to avoid dental caries.
Irreversible enamel defects caused by an untreated celiac disease. They may be the only clue to its diagnosis, even in absence of gastrointestinal symptoms, but are often confused with fluorosis, tetracycline discoloration, or other causes. The National Institutes of Health include a dental exam in the diagnostic protocol of celiac disease.
A sagittal cross-section of a molar tooth; 1: crown, 2: root, 3: enamel, 4: dentin and dentin tubules, 5: pulp chamber, 6: blood vessels and nerve, 7: periodontal ligament, 8: apex and periapical region, 9: alveolar bone
Panoramic radiograph of historic dental implants, made 1978