Getting to Know the Different Fields of Dentistry
When doing a Google search for a “dentist near me,” you might think that the first name that pops up on the screen offers the same type of treatment as the rest of your neighborhood dentists. However, just like with most fields of medicine, certain types of dentists specialize in fields that don’t provide the same treatment options most patients might expect.
If you search for a “dentist near me” looking to have your teeth cleaned or a cavity filled, you don’t want to call an orthodontist and ask for an appointment.
So that you’ll have a better understanding of the type of dentist to contact the next time you need to make an appointment, let’s take a look at the different types of dentists you’ll likely find when searching for a “dentist near me.”
A General/Family Dentist
A general, or family, dentist offers the types of preventative, cosmetic, and restorative treatments most of us associate with visiting a dentist.
If you’re looking to have your teeth cleaned, want a brighter smile through teeth whitening treatments, or need to repair a tooth that’s chipped, cracked, or broken, a general dentist can provide the type of care you’re looking to receive.
A general dentist can handle the majority of oral health problems a patient may experience, and some general dentists also offer more specialized treatments, such as what we’ll cover below.
However, there are times where a general dentist will need to refer a patient out to a specialist for them to receive the treatment their oral health requires. These specialty fields include some names you might have heard of and some you may not have even realized existed.
A field most patients probably have some familiarity with, an orthodontist specializes in straightening teeth and improving a patient’s bite.
For those who wore braces as a child, you most likely remember visiting a different dentist than the one who filled your cavities and reminded you of the importance of not eating too much sugar. So, no, your family dentist wasn’t just tired of treating you, you just needed specialized care.
While some general dentists offer orthodontic treatments, many still refer patients to partnering orthodontists when teeth need straightening or a jaw realigning.
When a patient’s gum health significantly deteriorates, a general dentist may no longer be able to provide the type of treatment necessary to restore the gums back to health.
A periodontist specializes in diseases that attack gum tissue. When mild forms of gum disease, such as gingivitis, become severe, a periodontist can provide the treatment and care necessary to prevent further damage and restore gums back to health.
In addition to performing treatments like root planing and scaling, a periodontist can also handle more complicated procedures, such as gum grafts, dental implants, and root canals.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Here we start to approach the fields of dentistry that many patients may not even realize exist.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform surgeries on the soft and hard tissue of the mouth. They handle issues that relate to the gums, soft and hard palate, lips, cheeks, and tongue. They also operate on facial tissue.
Patients who have deeply impacted wisdom teeth often receive a referral to see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, as the procedure to remove wisdom teeth from the gums and even the jawbone requires a precise type of oral surgery.
Patients who need to undergo reconstructive surgery after experiencing severe facial trauma would also see this type of surgeon.
While the outer layer of our teeth, the enamel, can take a lot of punishment, the interior of our teeth is really quite delicate. When damage occurs the pulp, nerves, and roots of our teeth, patients need to so an endodontist.
When the pulp of a tooth becomes rotten, an endodontist will conduct a root canal. In most cases, the doctor will try to save the tooth before removing the pulp and filling the tooth.
If a dentist expects that serious damage has occurred to the pulp, they will often refer a patient to see an endodontist.