Like other healthcare careers, many different fields of dentistry are available for those interested in pursuing this career path. In this article, we list 12 types of dentists—including their primary duties, educational requirements and average salary—to help you decide on a specialty.
12 types of dental specialties
The American Dental Association recognizes 12 dental specialties:
- Dental anesthesiology
- Public health dentistry
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
- Oral medicine
- Orofacial pain
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Pediatric dentistry
Common types of dentists
You can focus your dental education, experience and practice in any of the above dental specialties, then apply to the following related roles. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the links provided.
National average salary: $211,864 per year
Primary duties: This type of dentist specializes in examining patients as well as diagnosing and treating diseases that occur in gum tissue. Periodontists may treat patients by performing scaling, root canals, planing and debridement. Some may also specialize in placing implants.
Requirements: This specialized dentist must complete a bachelor's degree, dental school and an additional three years of advanced training in periodontics. States require licensing to practice.
National average salary: $214,870 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Primary duties: Prosthodontists are responsible for improving patients' mouth, jaw and teeth function as well as teeth and mouth appearance. They typically make molds of patients' mouths, create prosthetics like bridges with replacement teeth, place prosthetics and adjust as necessary over multiple appointments to ensure treatment is working and patients are comfortable.
Requirements: These professionals must earn a bachelor's degree, complete a doctoral dental program and go through specialized courses and training to develop the in-depth knowledge of the head, mouth, neck and spine to adequately treat patients. They may also need to earn a license in their practicing state.
Read more: What is a Prosthodontist?
National average salary: Detailed salary data is not available for endodontists, but according to Indeed Salaries, dentists earn $218,216 per year
Primary duties: An endodontist specializes in diseases and conditions in the tooth, such as decay. They may provide treatments like performing root canals or surgeries to repair traumatic dental injuries and decay, as well as placing implants for patients.
Requirements: As a specialized dentist, this professional is required to complete a bachelor's degree, four years of dental school and an additional two or three years in advanced, hands-on training in endodontics. They may also need to pass a licensing exam for their state.
Read more: Learn About Being an Endodontist
National average salary: Detailed salary data is not available for pediatric dentists, but according to Indeed Salaries, dentists earn $218,216 per year
Primary duties: A pediatric dentist specializes in examining, treating and educating young patients. They review X-rays, take molds of teeth, recommend treatments like braces or retainers and educate children and families on best oral hygiene practices.
Requirements: Like general dentists, pediatric dentists must complete a doctoral dental program and pass state board and licensing exams. They also are required to complete advanced training in a pediatric dentistry residency, which takes two to three years.
Read more: How To Become a Pediatric Dentist
National average salary: $218,216 per year
Primary duties: A dentist examines patients’ teeth for cavities, misalignment and signs of other conditions. They may review X-rays and medical history to create a tailored treatment plan, including referring patients to an orthodontist for braces or an oral surgeon to remove teeth. Dentists may also perform root canals, pull teeth and perform other procedures to fix and treat teeth.
Requirements: Dentists must complete a bachelor's degree before going to dental school. Though programs may accept students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds, a degree in biology, chemistry or another life science can help prepare for rigorous and advanced medical study. After completing dental school, they earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) and must pass a licensing exam to practice in their state.
Related: Learn About Being a Dentist
National average salary: $234,990 per year, according to the BLS
Primary duties: These dental surgeons are responsible for invasive procedures like removing wisdom teeth and preparing patients' mouths for extensive or complex implants. They typically review referral documents from a dentist that include the patient's medical and dental history, X-rays and molds, and then consult with the patient to determine the best treatment.
Requirements: These dentists must also complete an undergraduate degree, dental school and a two- or three-year residency focused on surgical techniques.
National average salary: Detailed salary data is not available for dental anesthesiologists, but according to the BLS, anesthesiologists earn $271,441 per year
Primary duties: A dental anesthesiologist specializes in oral pain relief and anesthetic for complex or lengthy dental procedures, such as impacted wisdom teeth removal. They first consult the patient's medical history to ensure they give a safe dose and explain the process to the patient to prep them for the anesthetic. They administer the anesthetic and monitor the patient's vitals during the procedure, adjusting and interfering in the case of an emergency. After the procedure, the dental anesthesiologist helps the patient safely wake up and recover.
Requirements: These dental professionals complete a two-year residency focused on dental anesthesiology after earning a bachelor's degree and completing four years of dental school.
National average salary: $324,050 per year
Primary duties: Orthodontists specialize in diagnosing and treating misaligned teeth, jaws or other severe alignment issues that cause patients discomfort or impact oral hygiene. They often review the patient's medical and dental history, take and review X-rays and fit patients for treatment options like braces, headgear and retainers. Additionally, they follow up with patients to adjust equipment as necessary and remove it when treatment is complete.
Requirements: Orthodontists complete a bachelor's degree, a DDS or DDM program and a postgraduate residency focused on orthodontics.
Read more: Learn About Being an Orthodontist
Other types of dentist office roles
If you’re interested in a career in dental healthcare but not as a dentist, there are several other supporting roles you can pursue, including:
- Dental assistant: Dental assistants help dentists during appointments by sterilizing and setting up equipment, preparing patients for procedures and recording patients' dental and relevant medical history. They also usually deal with patient billing and appointment scheduling.
- Orthodontic assistant: Orthodontic assistants clean and organize equipment, prep patients for procedures like getting braces and collect X-rays and other important documents for the orthodontist to provide effective treatment.
- Dental lab technician: Using molds taken and sent by dentists and orthodontists, dental lab technicians take measurements and craft prosthetics like dentures and bridges that match the patient's mouth for comfort, stability and continued treatment.
- Dental hygienist: Dental hygienists clean patients' teeth, examine and diagnose signs of dental or mouth disease, take X-rays and impressions, apply topical anesthetic and coordinate with dentists on treatment plans.