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In most western countries, to become a qualified dentist one must usually complete at least four years of postgraduate study; within the European Union the education has to be at least five years.Dentists usually complete between five and eight years of post-secondary education before practising.Oral infections and inflammations may affect overall health and conditions in the oral cavity may be indicative of systemic diseases, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, celiac disease or cancer.Many studies have also shown that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and preterm birth.
This is equivalent to the Bachelor of Dental Surgery/Baccalaureus Dentalis Chirurgiae (BDS, BDent, BCh D, BDSc) that is awarded in the UK and British Commonwealth countries.
Although primarily associated with teeth among the general public, the field of dentistry or dental medicine is not limited to teeth but includes other aspects of the craniofacial complex including the temperomandibular and other supporting structures.
Dentistry is often also understood to subsume the now largely defunct medical specialty of stomatology (the study of the mouth and its disorders and diseases) for which reason the two terms are used interchangeably in certain regions.
Dentists need to complete additional qualifications or continuing education to carry out more complex treatments such as sedation, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and dental implants.
By nature of their general training they can carry out the majority of dental treatments such as restorative (fillings, crowns, bridges), prosthetic (dentures), endodontic (root canal) therapy, periodontal (gum) therapy, and extraction of teeth, as well as performing examinations, radiographs (x-rays) and diagnosis.
Dentists can also prescribe medications such as antibiotics, sedatives, and any other drugs used in patient management.