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Most dentists either work in private practices (primary care), dental hospitals or (secondary care) institutions (prisons, armed forces bases, etc.).The history of dentistry is almost as ancient as the history of humanity and civilization with the earliest evidence dating from 7000 BC.A sagittal cross-section of a molar tooth; 1: crown, 2: root, 3: enamel, 4: dentin and dentin tubules, 5: pulp chamber, 6: blood vessels and nerve, 7: periodontal ligament, 8: apex and periapical region, 9: alveolar bone The first dental college, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, opened in Baltimore, Maryland, US in 1840.The second in the United States was the Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery, established in 1852.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.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 need to complete additional qualifications or continuing education to carry out more complex treatments such as sedation, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and dental implants.

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.

Dental treatments are carried out by a dental team, which often consists of a dentist and dental auxiliaries (dental assistants, dental hygienists, dental technicians, as well as dental therapists).

According to the World Health Organization, oral diseases are major public health problems due to their high incidence and prevalence across the globe, with the disadvantaged affected more than other socio-economic groups.

The majority of dental treatments are carried out to prevent or treat the two most common oral diseases which are dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal disease (gum disease or pyorrhea).

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