What Kind of Dental Specialist Do You Need?
When you start looking for a Top Dentist or dental specialist, it’s important to understand who does what for patients. This can save you time in finding the right dentist to meet your needs. Here’s an overview of the various types of dental care providers and their main areas of expertise:
General Dentist/Family Dentist
A general dentist focuses on preventive care (x-rays, exams, cleanings, intervention for gingivitis, etc.). This type of dentist will also do most commonly requested procedures such as fillings, crowns, fluoride treatment, root canals and simple extractions. Family dentists treat patients of all ages while some other general dentists serve mostly adults.
A cosmetic dentist offers smile makeover treatments to improve the appearance of teeth. This includes tooth whitening, veneers and more advanced porcelain dental prosthetics such as crowns, inlays and onlays. Those with experience performing oral surgery may also place implants, implant supported bridges and implant supported dentures for full restoration.
An endodontist focuses on treating the structures and tissues inside and around teeth. They most frequently perform root canals – including cases when the infection is advanced or widespread. These dental specialists also handle issues of nerve damage.
These surgeons perform reconstructive dental procedures to fix damage to the teeth, gums and jaw resulting from injury, disease or congenital abnormalities. Cleft palate repair is a common surgery these specialists handle. Impacted or complicated wisdom tooth extraction is another frequently performed surgery. An OMS can also remove tumors in the mouth, face or neck area.
An oral pathologist has received advanced training in identifying and treating diseases of the mouth and related structures. Your dentist may take a biopsy and send it to an oral pathologist for examination if you have symptoms of oral cancer or serious infection. Your dentist may also consult with this type of specialist if you have ongoing oral problems such as canker sores.
These dental specialists correct misalignment of the jaw and teeth for kids and grownups. Orthodontic procedures can fix an incorrect bite, gaps between teeth, crowded teeth or crooked teeth. Orthodontists prescribe and adjust retainers and braces (including clear Invisalign braces). They may also treat TMJ and other jaw problems.
Pediatric Dentist (Pedodontist)
These dental specialists focus on treating and preventing dental defects in children. These professionals and their staff know how to assist children who are afraid of going to the dentist or who have trouble keeping still during treatment. Pedodontists provide treatment such as dental sealant to help keep kids cavity free. They also perform procedures to correct misalignment, help teeth grow in correctly and fix other complex pediatric dental problems.
This dental specialty is concerned with the support structures for teeth (gums and jaw bone). These areas can be impacted by bacterial colonization that begins as gingivitis and advances to full-blown periodontal disease. Periodontists may perform gum grafting to repair damage from periodontal disease.
These dentists specialize in placing dental prosthetics. This includes crowns (porcelain, metal and hybrid), bridges, implants and dentures. Some of these treatments may have cosmetic benefits, but the main focus is on restoring full function. A prosthodontist may also be trained to address misalignment issues that cause jaw pain.
These dentists have special training in pain management and anxiety reduction. They can provide intravenous sedation in addition to nitrous oxide or oral sedatives.