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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.

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.

Examples include: Ancient Greek scholars Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry, including the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth and gum disease, extracting teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws.

In ancient Egypt, Hesi-Re is the first named "dentist" (greatest of the teeth).

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).

This schooling is followed by four years of dental school to qualify as a "Doctor of Dental Surgery" (DDS) or "Doctor of Dental Medicine" (DMD).