The Nine Dental Specialties

If your career goal is to become a general dentist, you need to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). But what if you want to specialize in a certain discipline? 

There are nine dental specialties in Canada, each of which requires you to undergo a distinct course of post-graduate education. This blog post will explore the differences between the specialties and introduce you to the post-graduate programs that are offered by a few dental schools in Canada.

 What are the nine dental specialties

  • Dental Public Health 
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Medicine and Pathology 
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology 
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics 
  • Pediatric Dentistry 
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics 

Regardless of which specialty interests you, know that each province or territory has their own dental regulatory authority responsible for licensure. So, on top of your post-graduate degree in the related field, you must pursue your licensure with the appropriate authority. 

Let’s start with Dental Public Health. 

Dental Public Health 

This specialty is all about promoting dental health and controlling dental disease in a way that centers your community’s needs as opposed to individual patients. The average annual salary of a Canadian public health dentist is $172,122 CAD

As a dental public health specialist, much of your work would include the following: 

  • Conducting research to gather information on dental health issues in your community
  • Getting involved in the development of public health policies to raise awareness of these issues and to address them 
  • Assessing how the community’s dental health needs are being met 
  • Educating the community about these issues as well as how to prevent them
  • Discovering ways of making dental health more accessible to the community in the long-term

In order to practice as a public health dentist in Canada, you would need to complete at least two years of post-graduate education in dental public health.  The University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia offer this program.


This specialty is concerned with the structure, function, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases and injuries to the dental pulp and the periradicular tissue. The former is the region at the centre of each tooth that’s composed of nerves and blood vessels, while the latter is the tissue surrounding the roots of each tooth. On average, endodontists earn an average annual salary of $218,811 CAD.

To become an endodontist, you must successfully complete at least three years of post-graduate education in endodontics, such as the Masters or PhD programs offered by both the University of British Columbia and  the University of Toronto

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 

This specialty is concerned with surgical treatments of disorders, diseases, and injuries of the mouth, jaw, and face. These dental specialists take part in procedures such as facial reconstructive surgery or the extraction of impacted wisdom teeth. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons earn an average of $292,329 CAD annually

Oral and maxillofacial surgery programs take at least four years to complete. Some Canadian post-graduate programs in this specialty include the following: 

Oral Medicine and Pathology 

While oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialize in surgical treatments, dentists who specialize in oral medicine and pathology are concerned with primarily non-surgical approaches concerning diseases and disorders of the mouth, jaw, and face. Oral pathologists earn an average annual salary of $249,705 CAD

Conditions an oral pathologist might treat include:

  • Oral cancer
  • Salivary problems
  • Fungal infections 

Oral medicine programs take at least three years to complete. A few Canadian post-graduate programs in oral medicine and pathology include:

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology 

Dentists who specialize in oral and maxillofacial radiology are able to prescribe, produce, and interpret diagnostic images (such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans). They are then able to diagnose and manage various diseases and disorders relating to the mouth, face, jaws, and neck. Oral radiologists earn an average annual salary of $172,006 CAD

The only Canadian post-graduate programs in this discipline are offered by the University of Toronto.  Their Master’s program takes three years to complete, while their PhD program takes seven years. 

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics 

This specialty is likely one that you’re more familiar with, especially if you’ve ever had to get braces. Orthodontists specialize in correcting the dentofacial structures (dent = teeth, facial = of the face). In simple terms, they adjust the jaw and/or teeth to fix issues like overcrowding, overbites and underbites. 

Whereas orthodontics are for patients of all ages, dentofacial orthopedics serve children in particular because they guide and correct the development of dentofacial structures. 

The Average annual salary of these specialists is $283,270 CAD

Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics programs take at least three years to complete. There are a number of relevant Canadian post-graduate programs:

Pediatric Dentistry 

Pediatric dentists work with children, from infancy through adolescence. They also work with people with special needs, including adults. Pediatric dentists provide diagnoses and treatments and take preventative measures to protect their patients’ short and long-term oral health. They earn an average annual salary of $224,619 CAD

Post-graduate programs in pediatric dentistry take at least three years to complete. A few relevant Canadian post-graduate programs include:


Periodontists are concerned with the health of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. Collectively, these tissues are called the periodontium. They include the gums, alveolar bone, cementum, and the periodontal ligament. Periodontists can diagnose, prevent, and treat the diseases and conditions that affect these structures. In short, they specialize in gum diseases! Periodontists earn an average annual salary of $214,630 CAD

They can also provide the following procedures: 

  • Laser treatments
  • Treatments to regenerate lost bone and tissue that support the teeth
  • Removing excess gum tissue to lengthen dental crowns 

Postgraduate periodontology programs take at least three years to complete. Some relevant Canadian post-graduate programs include:


What do you do if one of your teeth falls out? You go to a prosthodontist! They’re concerned with fitting artificial replacements for missing teeth and other parts of the mouth. Doing so rectifies any issues in patients’ oral function, health, or appearance and prevents the development of further issues. Prosthodontists earn an average annual salary of $226,361 CAD

Post-graduate prosthodontics programs take at least three years to complete. Some Canadian prosthodontics programs include:


And there you have it, all nine dental specialties. Leave a comment to let us know which one you found the most interesting!

Want to learn more about what it takes to practice one of these specialties? Check out the websites of the provincial dental regulatory authorities or contact them directly. You can find links to their websites and contact information on this list organized by the Canadian Dental Association.

Considering applying to dental school? Book a free consultation with one of our specialists to learn about how we can support you through your application process. And check out our blog for more application advice.  

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