While everyone knows to schedule an appointment twice a year with their local dental hygienist to get their teeth cleaned, it can be difficult to know what type of dentist you will need to see for other dental issues. In fact, there are seven different types of dental specialists to help you. While good oral hygiene will prevent needing an appointment with most of them, here is a brief explanation of each type in case you do.
1. General Dentist - General dentistry is the most common career path for dentists. These are the dentists you see regularly after you get your teeth cleaned. They check for any abnormalities in your teeth, gums, and mouth. For a standard cavity, they will be the type of dentist that you see to have the cavity removed and filled. They may perform root canals and other procedures, or they may refer you to a specialist on a case-by-case basis.
General dentists can even be your first line of defense against diseases like diabetes and oral cancer. When they inspect your mouth after your bi-annual cleaning, they are not just looking to make sure the hygienist did a good job. They are also scanning your mouth for abnormalities, like sores, gum disease, and infections, which often indicate a bigger issue.
2. Pediatric Dentist - A pediatric dentist, sometimes called a pedodontist, is a dentist that has decided to focus on children. Not only do they have a personality designed to help children feel comfortable in the dental chair, but they also specialize in the dental needs of younger patients, like tooth development.
3. Oral Surgeon - While a general dentist can extract teeth, it is common to be referred to an oral surgeon for complicated procedures. While an oral surgeon, or oral pathologist, commonly removes any teeth that are blocked by gum or bone (impacted), they also perform bone grafts, dental implants, and corrective jaw surgeries.
4. Endodontist - A root canal is needed when the soft tissue inside a tooth becomes infected due to decay or from a tooth that was cracked in an accident. While a general dentist can perform a root canal, an endodontist focuses their entire practice on the procedure. Endodontists are the root canal specialists in the dental world.
5. Periodontist - A periodontist is who you turn to when you have gum disease or other issues with the soft tissues in your mouth. Gingivitis and periodontal disease affect about 50 percent of Americans over the age of 30 and can lead to more serious issues, like bone and tooth loss. While a periodontist's primary focus is gum disease, they also remove excess gums when aesthetically necessary and perform gum grafts when there is an absence of healthy gum tissue.
6. Orthodontist - One of the most well-known dental specialties, orthodontics, creates over 4 million more beautiful smiles each year. Orthodontists apply braces to your teeth to repair crooked, crowded, or misaligned teeth. In addition to braces, they work with headgear, neck gear, and other orthodontia to correct misaligned bites. Contrary to popular belief, braces are not just for teens. In fact, over 25 percent of new patients each year are adults. Braces can be an effective procedure at any age.
7. Prosthodontist - A prosthodontist is a dentist that specializes in prosthetic teeth. This service includes non-removable solutions, like crowns and caps for existing teeth, as well as creating removable teeth, like a bridge or partial or full dentures. Prosthodontists also assist in facial reconstruction when a patient has lost part of their jaw due to an accident or disease.
While your goal is to have a great check-up every six months and not need the assistance of any dental specialists, it is good to know who they are and what they do.
To learn more, contact a dentist.