Not so long ago, a young man or woman could graduate from dental school, move to a location of interest, purchase equipment, hang up a sign, and begin to practice dentistry. Life was simpler then; restorative options were fewer, and it was possible to learn just about everything one needed to know about dentistry in four years of dental school. Times have changed. Dentistry has evolved tremendously, and there is more to learn than ever before.
Our patients are living longer, often taking multiple medications; dentists today must have an excellent understanding of pharmacology, including side effects and interactions. The evolution of the endosseous dental implant has revolutionized modern dental practice. The third-party payor has impacted the economics of dental practice in ways impossible to imagine thirty years ago.
Restorative techniques and materials we use routinely today weren't even imagined forty years ago; we are able to save teeth that would have been declared "hopeless" and extracted. The development of dentin bonding, stronger (and more lifelike) porcelains and composite resin materials, increases in the esthetic demands of our patients -- all have meant that four years of dental school have become a mere introduction to the complexities and satisfaction of modern-day dental materials, restorative techniques, and patient management.
So how does one prepare for practice? By participating in a fifth year of study - an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) Program or a General Practice Residency (GPR) Program - a year designed to increase your knowledge base and your clinical judgment, as well as to give you the opportunity to treat more, and more, and MORE patients! All this so you can improve your diagnostic skills, develop appropriate treatment plans, learn to provide or coordinate the comprehensive treatment your patients need, learn what cases NOT to treat, expand your horizons, and try new materials and techniques. (And all under the watchful eye of experienced clinicians who are dedicated to your professional growth!)
In short, why in the world wouldn't you do a Postdoctoral Program in General Dentistry?