A general dentist is the one who takes care of all the dental problems. But some dentists have specialized in one specific branch of dentistry to treat our specific needs. These dentists are called dental specialists or specialist dentists. In addition to the five years of general dental education, a dental specialist undergoes 3 to 4 years of post-graduate dental education in a specific branch of dentistry.
Types of dental specialist
There are nine different types of dental specialist.
- A Pedodontist is a dental specialist who treats children.
- A Prosthodontist replaces missing teeth.
- Oral surgeon deals with oral cancer and teeth extractions.
- An Endodontist specializes in root canal therapy.
- An Orthodontist aligns our teeth using braces.
- A Periodontist treats our gums.
- A Dental Radiologist or an Oral pathologist diagnoses all our teeth ailments.
- A community dentist serves rural area patients.
We may be referred to either one or more of the specialists by our general dentist if needed. A dental specialist often uses advanced techniques to treat our teeth. He/she has a deeper understanding of a specific branch of dentistry.
We go to a cardiologist when we have a heart-related issue. Similarly, we should know which dentist to consult for our tooth specific needs. So, let’s see in details about the various dental specialists and the specific kind of ailments that they treat.
Pedodontists or Pediatric dentists
As the name suggests, pediatric dentists or Pedodontists specialize in tooth problems of patients whose age is below eighteen years. Dental problems in children are different than that of adults. Adults have a different tooth structure compared to children, so we need a different dentist for our child.
The main area where pedodontists are skilled is in handling child patients. Children dread dentists and often make a fuss about dental visits. Pedodontists have a vivid knowledge of child psychology. They are the best when it comes to handling a fussy child in a dental clinic.
Children have two sets of teeth. Temporary milk teeth and permanent teeth embedded inside the gums. The permanent teeth develop just below the roots of milk teeth. Pedodontists specialize in treating the ailments of milk teeth so that the permanent teeth have enough time to develop before they erupt.
The role of a pedodontist is important because they give your child his or her first memory of a dental visit. If this memory is pleasant, your child will never dread a dentist again. (1)
A dental specialist who specializes in artificial teeth placement, dentures, and facial implants is known as a Prosthodontist. Prosthodontists can replace all our missing teeth or place artificial crowns over our broken or damaged teeth.
They also fabricate and place facial implants for patients who have lost a part of their face like eyes, nose or part of their jaw due to cancer or in an accident.
The most revered piece of work that they do is making a complete denture for elderly patients who have lost all their teeth. Prosthodontists help in our rehabilitation after we have undergone minor or major dental surgery by replacing the removed structures with a prosthesis.
Prosthodontists are the best when it comes to an understanding of the dynamics of our smile. Because of their extensive knowledge in reconstruction, they can completely transform our smile for the better.
Endodontists are most popular among all specialist dentists because they deal with our most common teeth problems like filling a cavity in our teeth and root canal therapy. They specialize in the branch of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics.
Endodontists try to preserve or conserve our teeth so that teeth extraction is not needed. They specialize in all the tooth problems that are related to the dental pulp (soft tissue in the teeth).
Endodontists also specialize in teeth bonding and veneer placement over our natural teeth to improve our smile. Root canal therapy is their main area of expertise. If you want to save a tooth from extraction, Endodontists are the ones who do it. (2)
Orthodontists or orthopedic dental surgeons deal with our crooked and misaligned teeth. They are the ones who give us braces so that our smile line is perfect. The branch of orthopedic surgery deals with the remodeling of abnormal jaw bones.
Orthodontics is the only branch of dentistry in which a general dentist will never be able to work. We will always be referred to an orthodontist when we want to correct our bite or teeth placement such as crossbite.
Orthodontists have extensive knowledge of our bone structure and teeth placement in the jaws.
They can alter our facial appearance by remodeling the shape of our jaws and facial bones. Many celebrities are known to have undergone orthodontic therapy to improve their facial appearance.
Hence, orthodontics is the most skill sensitive branch of dentistry. The entire treatment outcome depends on how good your orthodontist is.
Periodontists deal with all our gum problems. They specialize in teeth cleaning procedures like scaling and root planning. They treat gum problems like Gingivitis and Periodontitis.
Periodontists also deal with bone regeneration and gum regeneration with grafts.
The main area of expertise for periodontists is teeth implants. A tooth implant is a metallic screw which is placed in an empty tooth socket. The top of the screw is covered with an artificial tooth crown. Dental implants are the most long-lasting and expensive prosthesis.
Periodontists have extensive knowledge of adjacent tooth structures like gums, periodontal ligament and jaw bones. They are excellent in placing a dental implant.
The oral surgeons specialize in the branch of oral and maxillofacial surgery. An oral surgeon is a dental specialist who deals with ailments of our jaws and teeth. Their main area of work is tooth extraction and oral cancer treatment.
Oral surgeons deal with the removal of cancer, cysts and other defects from jaws and face. They specialize in fracture management of the jaws.
Minor dental surgeries like removal of impacted wisdom teeth are often done by oral surgeons and not by a general dentist. They also specialize in giving oral anesthesia because they deal with the most painful therapies related to our teeth.
Oral radiologists specialize in the branch of oral medicine and radiology. They are excellent diagnosticians. They are well versed with all diagnostic methods like intraoral X rays, CT scans, and MRI.
Although they do not treat specific dental problems, they diagnose those problems accurately with other specialist dentists to handle.
Dental radiologists often work in association with oral and maxillofacial surgeons. Therefore Radiology and oral medicine are often deemed as a sub-branch of oral surgery.
The dental specialist who specializes in oral pathology and microbiology are known as Oral pathologists. The main area of work is the diagnosis of tissue samples sent to them by oral surgeons.
Oral pathologists have a vast knowledge of the microscopic tissue structures and cancer cells. They prepare slides from tissue samples sent to them and examine them under a microscope.
Only after an oral pathologist confirms a diagnosis, an oral surgeon can proceed with the treatment.
Oral pathology is a sub-branch of Oral and maxillofacial surgery. Oral pathologists often practice as general dentists because they do not specialize in any specific tooth related treatment.
Public health dentistry is a general branch of dentistry that deals with all types of treatment but on a community level. The dentists who specialize in this field are known as Community dentists.
They practice as general dentists in camps set up in rural areas where patients do not have enough money or conveyance to reach a private practitioner.
They spread awareness about various tooth related problems in rural areas. They specialize in statistical analysis of populations to identify the status and prevalence of diseases.
FAQs about dentists
What is a DMD dentist?
DMD typically stands for Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry. It is a professional degree awarded to students who graduate from a four-year dental curriculum. A DMD dentist comes under the category of a general practitioner.
Typically, in the DMD curriculum, the first two years of dental school are pre-clinical and consists of a series of medical and dental subjects. Additionally, students are introduced to clinical laboratory practice. The next two years are focused on patient exposure and clinical practice.
After graduating with a DMD degree, the dentists have to pass the state licensing exam to become eligible for private practice in the United States.
How do dentists pull teeth?
Typically, there is a proper stepwise procedure followed by the dentists to pull the teeth out. The procedural steps for tooth extraction are listed below –
- Numbing the concerned tooth – the first step to proceed with tooth extraction is to anesthetize the tooth, bone, and the surrounding gum tissue.
- The dentist then uses elevators to luxate the tooth root and loosen it from the socket.
- Once the tooth becomes mobile, the dentist uses extraction forceps to pull the tooth out of the socket.
- After tooth removal, the socket is cleaned, and a gauze pack is placed to stop the bleeding.
What is a holistic dentist?
A holistic dentist is a dental professional who treats oral problems by focusing on its impact on the overall health and well-being of the individual. Moreover, a holistic dentist also considers your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
What kind of dentist do implants?
Ideally, the American Dental Association permits a general dentist to perform all dental procedures. However, most of the patients for the implant are referred to specialists like oral and maxillofacial surgeons or periodontists. Specialists are well trained with the implant procedure. They place the implant and check for Osseo-integration. After the healing period, the general dentist places the crown or bridge.
Why are dentists so expensive?
There are several reasons as to why dentists are expensive –
- Dentists are trained professionals who undergo rigorous training for four years in a dental school.
- The dental instruments are highly specialized equipment that is expensive to purchase.
- The dental chair, digital x-rays, and dental materials used for tooth fillings.
- Additionally, the dentist often takes services from dental lab technicians for the fabrication of dental prostheses.
Considering all these factors, dental procedures are quite expensive.
How dentists number teeth?
There are typically two types of tooth numbering systems that are widely used by dentists all over the world. The two methods are listed below –
- Universal numbering system – in this, the tooth number starts from 1. The tooth farthest back on the right side of the mouth in the upper jaw is numbered 1. The numbering continues along the upper jaw towards the front and across the dental arch. Ideally, in this system, all the teeth, including the missing ones, are counted, and a total of 32 teeth accounted for.
- Federation dentaire international numbering system (FDI) – this is a global two-digit system. Each quadrant is assigned a specific number; for example, the right upper quadrant is numbered one, the upper left quadrant is assigned number two. Similarly, the left and right lower quadrant are numbered three and four, respectively.
How do dentists fill cavities?
First, the dentist drills the tooth to clean the decayed portion of the tooth and prepares the tooth surface. Once the tooth surface is clean, the dentist fills the cavity with the dental material and molds it to match the shape of the adjacent teeth.
How do dentists remove tartar?
Usually, the dentist uses an ultrasonic scaler to remove the plaque and tartar around the gum line and between the teeth. The scaler typically loosens the tartar with ultrasonic vibrations. Once the particles are loose, the scaler scrapes the tartar from the tooth surface.
After teeth cleaning, the dentist polishes the tooth surface using a polishing paste and brush.
What is a DDS dentist?
DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery. Just like DMD, DDS dentists undergo four years of dental school and obtain a professional dental degree. After graduation, they have to pass the state licensing exam to become eligible for practicing as a general dentist.
How do dentists fix a broken tooth?
Usually, the dentist uses tooth filling material to restore the broke nor chipped tooth surface. This process is called bonding. The dentist uses tooth-colored material, molds it to match the original shape of the tooth, and bonds it to the teeth.
How long does a dentist appointment take?
On average, a dentist may take about 45 minutes to perform thorough dental examinations and record dental x-rays. However, the time for a dental appointment depends on the dental condition of the patient. Usually, patients with many dental problems might take more time as compared to others.
How long does the dentist numbing shot last?
Usually, the treated tooth remains numb for at least 1-2 hours. In the case of a nerve block, the tongue, lips, and surrounding soft tissue may remain numb for 3-5 hours from the time of injection.
How often should you get routine checkups at the dentist?
The number of routine checkups depends on the oral condition of the patient. The lower the risk of dental disease, the longer you can wait for your next checkup. Ideally, people with good oral health will need to go for a routine checkup for every 12-24 months.
What dentist does root canals?
An endodontist usually performs root canals. Endodontists are root canal specialists who focus on dental diseases related to the pulp tissue. Moreover, endodontists undergo specialized training for two to three years.
What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?
An orthodontist usually requires additional training in a specialty program. Orthodontists typically focus on changing the alignment of the teeth and improving the bite of the patient using corrective braces and retainers.
A dentist, on the other hand, looks after the oral health and hygiene of the patient. Some of the procedures performed by the dentist include tooth filling, root canal, gum treatment, fabrication of crown, and bridges. Additionally, the dentist also carries out cosmetic dental procedures such as tooth whitening and veneers.
Why do dentists push x rays?
X-ray films are used to record the disease or infection associated with the tooth and surrounding structures. The dentist pushes the x-ray film in the mouth to ensure that the film adequately covers the peri-apical area of the tooth. Moreover, it helps to avoid unnecessary repetition of the x-ray.
Final words on a dental specialist
Our teeth and gums can suffer from a wide range of ailments. Different structures in our mouth require different kinds of treatments. Therefore, we have these nine specialized branches of dentistry that deal with specific areas in our mouth and treat specific problems in our teeth.
If you visit a general dentist, he or she may refer you to a dental specialist because the scope of treatment for a general dentist is limited. Whereas, when we know which dental specialist to visit for a specific tooth problem, we will receive extensive treatment for that problem.
Specialist dentists often work in association with each other and have a team where each dentist specializes in a different branch. So, when you directly reach out to a specialist dentist, you won’t be referred anywhere else.