Dentists are health professionals who take care of the teeth, gums, and supporting bones of the mouth. They help their patients keep their teeth and gums healthy. They also treat diseased teeth and gums. Dentists sometimes detect general diseases of the body that can affect the condition of a patient's mouth.
Most dentists work as general practitioners in their own offices or with a group of dentists. They often have dental assistants and dental hygienists working for them. Under the dentist's direction, these helpers sometimes take X-rays, clean patients' teeth, and teach patients how to care for their teeth and gums at home. Dentists may take X-rays themselves. They examine patients' mouths for cavities, sores, swelling, or other signs of disease. They may fill cavities, pull teeth that cannot be saved, or replace missing teeth. Dentists use both hand and power tools. They may use a local or general anesthetic to keep patients comfortable during treatment. Some dentists do their own laboratory work. Others send this work out to dental laboratories. Sometimes general practitioners refer patients to specialists.