Dentistry is the branch of the healing arts and sciences devoted to maintaining the health of the teeth, the gums, and other hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity. The absence of tooth decay, periodontal disease, malocclusion, oral-facial anomalies, and other oral disorders contributes to proper mastication and to normal speech and facial appearance. Early detection of oral cancer and systemic conditions that manifest themselves through the mouth are necessary for the maintenance of general health. In other words, the wide spread concept that a dentist is one who "fixes teeth" is descriptive of only one area of a dentist's responsibility. The dentist is, in fact, a person dedicated to the highest standards of health through the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all oral diseases and conditions.
The properly motivated young person with scientific curiosity, intelligence, ambition, and social consciousness can find a highly rewarding career in dentistry. As a health professional, he or she would be highly regarded by the community and often called upon to provide community consultation and services. In fact, a 1994 Gallup Poll listed dentistry as the third most trusted profession in America. The monetary rewards of being a health professional assure financial security with the average net income of a general dentist being over $175,000 and the average net income of the dental specialist being over $265,000. This places the average income of a dentist in the highest 8% of U.S. family incomes.
There are now more than 150,000 dentists in the United States, of whom about 135,000 are active in the profession, or approximately one dentist for every 1,500 persons. However, dentists are very unevenly distributed, and the average number of persons per dentist ranges from less than 1,000 in some states to more than 3,000 in others. Even in the best supplied states there are often rural areas and intercity areas of urban communities that are seriously underserved.
Not only is there an immediate need for more dentists in these underserved areas, but because of an increasing public awareness of the importance of oral health and the development of new mechanisms for financing dental care, the demand for dentists' services can be expected to increase in most areas of the country. Dental prepayment or insurance is one of these mechanisms. Moreover, most proposals for national health insurance contain some provision for children's dental care, and several provide for the phasing in of adult dental benefits.
While more efficient practice methods, better utilization of auxiliary and personnel, and improved programs of prevention will undoubtedly enable the dentist of tomorrow to expend professional services to more patients, the fact remains that a larger number of dentists will be needed in the years ahead if all segments of the population are to have access to the care they need. The Sixth Report to the President and Congress on the Status of Health Professions in the U.S., reported there is little doubt that in lieu of some dramatic intervention we can expect a shortage of dentists, maybe as soon as 2010 by certainly by 2020."
The University of Nebraska is fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the accrediting agency for the region in which the university is located.
The programs in dental hygiene, dentistry, and advanced dental education are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council on Post Secondary Accreditation and the United States Department of Education.
Additional information about dentistry may be obtained by contacting the American Dental Association and/or the American Dental Education Association at the addresses listed below:
American Dental Association
211 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2500
Phone: (312) 440-2500
American Dental Education Association
1626 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-2212
Phone: (202) 667-9433
UNMC Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP)