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What is Operative Dentistry?


It is often thought that operative dentistry involves some surgical aspect of dentistry, however, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Every time I am asked what my specialty is and my response is ‘operative’, even when I’m having this discussion with dental professionals, I’m always asked this question. ‘What part of oral and maxillofacial surgery does that involve’ or ‘so what exactly do you do?’.

operative dentistry

So what is Operative Dentistry?

Operative dentistry, in my opinion, should be called either ‘aesthetic and adhesive dentistry’ or ‘restorative dentistry’. It is usually a three-year program (I know right that’s a long time!) and it is sometimes combined with a certificate and biomaterials.

There are a few programs nationwide and some of the programs I am more familiar with are the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (because that’s where I did my residency), the University of Indiana, the University of Iowa, and the University of Florida.

What does it comprise?

So, what is this program? The program training emphasizes dental clinical techniques such as adhesives and scientific principles such as preventative dentistry, cariology, and dental literature review. There is also a focus on aesthetics and CADCAM technology.

I can best describe operative dentists as mini-prosthodontists. They have a scope of dentistry with complexities between a prosthodontist and a general dentist.

what is operative dentistry

Is it right for you?

This type of specialty is usually comprised of military dentists and international dentists. A good specialty for a dentist who would like to pursue a career in academia.

This program is not a CODA-accredited program and is recognized as an ‘area of special interest’ by the ADA. If a CODA accreditation is necessary, it would be beneficial to seek a different post-dental graduate program like an AEGD program.

Due to the length of training, I would recommend doing a two-year AEGD versus a one-year program. Remember that not all programs are created the same, like every other specialty in dentistry.

Happy Choosing!

Want some ideas on what to do after graduating from dental school? Check out this post here!

options for dental school


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