A dentist’s job is complex and ever-changing.

When we think about doctors who help treat important, complex parts of our bodies, cardiologists, neurologists, and gastrointestinal doctors tend to jump to the forefront of our minds. These doctors certainly fit the bill, but so do dentists; after all, they also treat a complex part of our body that impacts our daily life and our overall health: the mouth. 

Your dentist must use a surprisingly diverse array of skills to prevent or treat a wide range of issues. To give you an idea of just how important and complex your mouth is, here are some of the aspects that dentists must consider during their treatment of each patient.

You use your mouth constantly.

Your mouth plays an incredibly important role in your daily life. It serves both functional and social purposes by helping us eat, drink, communicate, express happiness through a smile, or show love through a kiss. If your teeth are unhealthy or missing, however, simple tasks like eating and speaking can become difficult or painful, and cavity-causing bacteria can even spread from your mouth to someone else’s. This is why having a healthy mouth, from your gums to your teeth, is incredibly important.

Your body and mouth affect each other.

It may sound strange to think of our mouths as so complex, but they’re just as much a part of our body as our skin or our stomach. Dentists can’t treat your mouth as if it’s isolated and, thus, have to know how the health of your mouth and body can affect each other. Illnesses that make it harder for your body to fight off infection, such as diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, can increase your risk of periodontal disease. Similarly, medications or illnesses that reduce your mouth’s saliva production threaten your oral health, as saliva plays an important role in preventing cavities by reducing the amount of food debris and bacteria in your mouth. You should always alert your dentist to a new medical diagnosis or a change in your medication, as this may have an impact on their recommendations for your daily oral hygiene routine. 

An unhealthy mouth can also increase your risk of contracting serious health conditions in other parts of your body. Periodontal disease, for example, is thought to increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. In some cases, the bacteria that causes periodontitis can get into your bloodstream and cause an infection in your heart called endocarditis. All of this works together to create a complex puzzle involving your entire body, not just your mouth, which your dentist must learn to navigate in order to give you the best treatment possible.

Dentists blend medical knowledge, cosmetic surgery, and art.

In order to keep your teeth healthy, dentists must master a wide range of skills. They do preventative cleanings and fluoride treatments to prevent cavities from forming in the first place and deal with anything from gum health and tooth decay to broken teeth. It’s incredibly important for dentists to have the knowledge to help maintain or restore their patients’ oral health, but there’s one aspect dentists have to worry about that most other doctors don’t: appearance. As long as they’re doing their job, no one worries what their kidneys look like—no one sees them. Our smiles, however, are an incredibly important aspect of our daily life; they impact our confidence and even have an effect on how others view us. As such, it makes sense that we want the picture-perfect smile that we see so often in magazines and on TV. 

Dentists receive specialized training to be able to provide their patients with cosmetic treatments for their smiles. They even continue that training by taking courses throughout their careers to stay up-to-date on the latest technology and treatment methods. Providing patients with a smile that makes them happy is where the art comes in; using your personal preference regarding the shape, size, and shade of your veneers or crown, for example, your dentist designs a custom-made material that will fit and function in your mouth perfectly, as well as give you the appearance you hoped for.

Each patient’s case is unique.

While it’s easy to assume that once you’ve seen one tooth or one mouth, you’ve seen them all, that’s far from the truth. Your teeth are just as unique as your fingerprints—no two people’s teeth are alike. This means that dentists are constantly evaluating each patient’s unique case and the potential issues that their teeth or health conditions pose. This may involve planning procedures to alleviate a patient’s issues with their TMJ, taking into account a disease that makes one patient heal slowly, or creating a crown that preserves the snaggletooth their patient loves so much. 

Although dentists work on keeping your mouth healthy, they must consider the health of your entire body in order to do so. They must think creatively, melding together and utilizing a host of skills, while staying up-to-date on the latest technology and treatment methods. While our oral health might not seem complex at first blush, a deeper look shows just how complex and ever-changing a dentist’s job is.