Profession: Dentist

A dentist is a health professional who prevents, detects, diagnoses and treats deficiencies and abnormalities in people's teeth, mouths, jaws and neighbouring tissues. Using diagnostic tests such as x-rays, he or she identifies and treats illnesses, injuries and malformations of the teeth and gums and prescribes and administers preventive care. He or she may also perform surgery, such as tooth extraction, or be active in research.

Dentists with specific abilities and preferences may elect to pursue an advanced program of studies in one of the ten specialties recognized by the Ordre des dentistes du Québec.

Dental Specialties

  • The dentist specializing in public health develops and manages community public dental health programs.
  • The endodontist is concerned with the treatments affecting the pulp chamber, i.e. the central cavity of the tooth containing dental pulp, nerves and blood vessels, and the root canals, which carry blood vessels and nerves toward the dental pulp. This dentist is the specialist in root canal treatments.
  • The oral and maxillofacial pathologist specializes in the clinical and microscopic diagnosis, management and primarily non-surgical treatment of diseases and physiological problems affecting the mouth or jaw.
  • The oral and maxillofacial radiologist specializes in interpreting images obtained by various imaging technologies in order to establish a radiographic diagnosis of diseases and conditions affecting the oral cavity, jaws and face.
  • The oral and maxillofacial surgeon conducts surgery that is more specialized than general dental surgery, for instance when a patient has suffered an accident or has defects or malformations in the jaw and facial bones.
  • The oral medicine specialist diagnoses and provides non-surgical treatment of diseases and lesions of the mouth and temporomandibular disorders (joints, muscles, dental occlusion, tongue, etc.).
  • The orthodontist diagnoses, prevents and treats anomalies in the positioning of the teeth and bones that can lead to dental malocclusions (improperly positioned teeth) or improper contact between teeth, for functional and esthetic purposes. This dentist is the specialist in fixed corrective devices (“braces”) and removable corrective devices.
  • The pediatric dentist diagnoses, prevents and treats oral disease, anomalies and accidents among children, from birth to adolescence.
  • The periodontist diagnoses and treats diseases of the tissues and bones that support the teeth.
  • The prosthodontist restores or replaces natural teeth by means of prostheses, veneers, implants, crowns and bridges that he or she fashions and fits.

Workplace and conditions

The vast majority of dentists work in private practice and can thus set their own working conditions and business hours. A study conducted by the Ordre des dentistes du Québec in 2006 shows that dentists work an average of 36.1 hours a week, including 31.5 hours a week providing direct care. Most (83%) dentists do not practise at more than one location, while 14% work in two locations and nearly 3% in three locations.

Some dentists work in the public sector, particularly in the fields of prevention and community dental health. Others opt for a career in administration or teaching, generally within a faculty of dentistry. Another noteworthy fact is that the profession's gender ratio is approximately 55% male to 45% female. More statistics on the dental profession are available on this Website.

Skills required

Dentists must possess superior manual dexterity to perform all their tasks, as well as considerable physical endurance and the ability to maintain their concentration for long periods.

Dentists must have confidence in their own professional skills, because they regularly make important decisions regarding clients' dental health.

Given their constant contact with the public, dentists must have good communication skills, including the ability to express complex information in simple terms, and treat clients with patience and respect.