Dentists use a variety of equipment, including x-ray machines, drills, mouth mirrors, probes, forceps, brushes, and scalpels. They wear masks, gloves, and safety glasses to protect themselves and their patients from infectious diseases.
Dentists in private practice oversee a variety of administrative tasks, including bookkeeping and the buying of equipment and supplies. They may employ and supervise dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental laboratory technicians, and receptionists. (These occupations are described elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Most dentists are general practitioners, handling a variety of dental
needs. Other dentists practice in any of nine specialty areas.
Orthodontists, the largest group of specialists, straighten teeth by
applying pressure to the teeth with braces or retainers. The next largest
group, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, operates on the mouth and
jaws. The remainder may specialize as pediatric dentists (focusing on
dentistry for children); periodontists (treating gums and bone
supporting the teeth); prosthodontists (replacing missing teeth with
permanent fixtures, such as crowns and bridges, or with removable fixtures
such as dentures); endodontists (performing root canal therapy);
public health dentists (promoting good dental health and preventing
dental diseases within the community); oral pathologists (studying
oral diseases); or oral and maxillofacial radiologists (diagnosing
diseases in the head and neck through the use of imaging technologies).
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition