A general dentist is one that does not limit their practice to one specific aspect of dentistry. A general dentist will take care of a person’s day to day dental needs, and direct them to the proper specialist when specific needs arise. You are probably familiar with going to the dentist for procedures such as: Fillings, crowns and bridges, root canals, and extractions. A general dentist is licensed to do all dental procedures. When a dental problem is more complex, or the general dentist feels the patient’s needs require more specialized care, they will recommend the appropriate specialty for that care. As a patient, you have the right to choose to see a specialist at any time for any dental procedure that falls under the scope of a specialty.
A dental specialist is a practitioner who has completed the training to be a general dentist, and has continued with several more years of education, and received their “Specialty Certificate” in their specialty.
There are 9 recognized specialties in dentistry:
- Dental Public Health – Deals with prevention of oral disease and the promotion of oral health.
- Endodontics – Is the specialty of treating the internal portion of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels exist. We usually think of it as root canals.
- Oral Pathology – An oral pathologist specializes in determining the cause and effect of diseases in the oral cavity.
- Oral Radiology – A specialty for performing and interpreting imaging of the structure of the head and jaws.
- Oral Surgery – An oral surgeon takes care of dental problems requiring surgical intervention. Things such as removal of impacted wisdom teeth, and bone grafting fall under this specialty.
- Orthodontics – This specialty deals with diagnosing and treating misaligned teeth.
- Pedodontics – The practice is limited to the treatment of children.
- Periodontics – This specialty focuses on the supporting structures of the teeth. It includes the treatment of periodontal disease, and corrective surgery on the gums.
- Prosthodontics – A prosthodontist specializes in the replacement of missing teeth.
Notice: There is no recognized specialty for the following:
- Implant Dentistry
- Cosmetic Dentistry
- Sleep Dentistry
While some practices will say they specialize in these areas, these are merely marketing terms to let the public know what area the dentist chooses to focus on. They are not specialties and do not indicate the dentist has any recognized skills in those areas. You will need to determine their level of expertise on your own.