Types of Dentists: A Comprehensive Guide to Dental Specialties and Services

Table of Contents

The dental world is not limited to a general dentist, dental hygienist, and a trained dental assistant–people we most see and interact with at the dental office.

Different Types of Dentists

Just like there are specialists for every medical field, we have six dental specialties as well. 

Whether you’re referred to a specialist doctor for one of your dental problems or are looking to take dentistry as your career path, this guide is for you. 

Overview of Different Types of Dentists

According to studies , the first thing that attracts people when searching for potential partners is their smiles.

A general dentist can do routine checkups and routine treatments, but if you need veneers for your crooked front teeth, you’d need to see a prosthodontic with an aesthetic sense to give you a Hollywood smile.

The first professional degree in the US dental school for dentists is the Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS) or the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. 

The foreign-trained dentist with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) has to study for two to three years in the US to get an equivalent DMD and DDS degree after clearing a few tests.

A specialty in the area of dentistry demands post-doctoral education that the National Commission has formally recognized on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards (NCRDSCB).

General dentists and specialists are certified to practice in the US. Currently, five types of specialist dentists are recognized by this board, which are: 

1) General Dentists – Front-liners in Dentistry 

 Organization: Academy of General Dentistry, AGD

Role and Responsibilities

General dentists are the primary care dental providers for your dental health. They are experts in treating and preventing common dental issues. They have achieved a DMD or DDS degree and are practicing listening from the American Board of Dentistry.

DMD and DDS degree

Since general dentists are front-line helpers in dentistry, they manage your overall dental care. A general dentist will do X-rays, visually inspect and evaluate the teeth and gums, and may refer you to a specialist for more complex dental work if needed.

Some are specialized in providing pediatric services, or dental services /treatment for children.

Services Provided

Routine Dental Cleanings and Exams: Regular dental teeth cleanings for plaque and tartar removal twice a year are scheduled with a general dentist. They prevent gum diseases and tooth decay. Your dentist will also perform your comprehensive oral exam to rule out any dental or oral problem if it exists.

Diagnostic Services: He’ll carry out some investigations like dental X-rays to learn about hidden dental problems like cavities, bone loss, or tooth impaction. Oral cancer screenings are also done to rule out any oral anomalies at an early stage.

Preventive Services: Flouride therapy or dental sealants can be given to strengthen the tooth enamel and prevent cavities in the deep molar fissures.

Basic Restorative Services: Tooth fillings are the basic restorative procedure at a dentist to remove cavities and stains. Dental crowns are also given on severely damaged decayed teeth to make them functional. 

Cosmetic Procedures: The general dentist does basic cosmetic dentistry services like teeth whitening procedures and direct composite veneering to remove stains, cover cracks, and uneven spacings between the teeth.

Emergency Dental Care: General dentists cater to emergency toothaches and dental trauma like tooth cracks and dental avulsions. 

Dental Emergencies

Common Procedures

2) Orthodontists – Smile Fixing Master 

Organization: American Association of Orthodontists

Role and Responsibilities

The orthodontist focuses on the alignment of the teeth and dental arches. The two dental arches, the maxilla and the mandible are involved in diagnosing, correcting, interception, and preventing malocclusion. They often work on the jaws of children and adolescents and aim to provide an effective bite and jaw alignment. 

This specialty prevents the development of dental cavities and gum diseases by properly aligning the teeth. Orthodontic changes are brought with conventional metallic or ceramic braces with the action of wires. Invisalign is a new orthodontic option that brings about changes in the jaw and the teeth. 

Services Provided

Braces: Traditional metal brackets and wires move the teeth to the required position gradually. A few patients are esthetically conscious, so ceramic and lingual braces are offered as alternatives. Only a few people with minor malocclusions are offered orthodontic treatment with clear aligners or Invisalign. 

Malocclusion Treatment: Different types of malocclusions exist, like overbites, underbites, and crossbites. Overbite or deep bite is when the upper teeth excessively overlap the lower teeth.

Underbite is when the lower teeth past the upper teeth. Crossbite arises due to the inadequate growth of the jaws, while open bites appear due to certain habits like nail biting and thumb sucking.

Jaw Growth Management: Functional appliances like MARA and Hawley’s induce hair growth in children and adolescents, while headgear and chin cups are used to stop jaw development.

Retention: Retainers are designed in a custom size out of plastic to be worn after the orthodontic treatment is over.

Retainers

This prevents the shifting of the tooth once the procedure comes to an end. 

Common Procedures

  • Initial oral evaluation and diagnosis
  • Capturing panoramic or Cephalometric X-rays to see jaw and teeth position.
  • Digital model-making for a treatment plan
  • Initial bonding of brackets to the teeth
  • Tightening of braces with wires and loops
  • Periodic adjustment with wires every three weeks
  • Giving retainers 

3) Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons

Organization: American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons

Role and Responsibilities

Oral surgeons perform surgical procedures on the teeth, face, and jaw. The simplest example of their work is tooth extraction. Generally, these surgeons work in operation theatres to fix the jaw or bone in place after a root traffic accident. 

Sometimes, an orthodontist will need the help of an oral surgeon to fix the outgrowth of the jaw.

Services Provided

Tooth Extraction: This involves the removal of the impacted, decayed, or damaged tooth in the mouth. 

Dental Implants: These surgeons surgically place implants, which are tooth-like substitutes in the mouth.

Corrective Jaw Surgery: The surgery deals with overgrowth or undergrowth of the jaw to restore function and appearance. 

Facial Injury Treatment: They treat any fractures of TMJ dislocations. 

Oral Cancer Surgery: Removal of tumors and cysts in the head and neck region

Common Procedures

  • Tooth extractions 
  • Dental Implants
  • Bone Grafting 
  • Cleft Lip and Palate Repair
  • TMJ Surgeries
  • Fracture Surgeries

Endodontists

Organization: American Association of Endodontists

Role and Responsibilities

Endodontists are specialists in doing root canal therapies in general. Failed root canals are often referred to endodontists for the retreatments. 

Endodontists

These people are experts in managing tooth pain and dental infections that arise due to dental causes. Endodontists are experts at doing several complex procedures to save the tooth after an injury and illness.

Services Provided

Root Canal Therapy: Removing infected or dead pulp to alleviate pain and to seal it after the cleaning and shaping of root canals. 

Endodontic Retreatment: Root canal teeth that reappear with pain and symptoms are redone to save the tooth. 

Trauma Management: Treating injuries caused by a fall or a simple tooth crack that appears after cracking a nut

Apicoectomy: Surgical removal of the tooth root to prevent infection

Apexification & Apexogenesis: The process of making roots after the tooth has suffered trauma

Common Procedures

  • Root Canal Treatment 
  • Endodontic Surgery 
  • Vital & Non-vital pulp therapy 
  • Apexification & Apexogenesis

Prosthodontists – Replacemes Lost Mouth Structures 

Organization: American College of Prosthodontists

Role and Responsibilities

Prosthodontics are specialists in providing replacement and restoration for missing teeth, jaw, or any oral structure. They are known to improve an individual’s overall aesthetics, dental, and mental health. Oral Cancer reconstruction is also done by prosthodontics.

Services Provided

Crown & Bridge Fabrication and Placement: Weak tooth structures, especially after root canal therapy, need a crown to stay functional. Bridges are meant to replace the lost tooth with the help of adjacent teeth. 

Crown

Dental Implants: Implants are the titanium screws that go inside the bone; sometimes, these support individual crowns, while at times, dentures

Dentures: Complete dentures, partial dentures, and immediate dentures all fall under the specialties of prosthodontics. 

Common Procedures

Periodontists – Specialize in Dental Care 

Organization: American Academy of Periodontology

Role and Responsibilities

Periodontists are specialists in treating gum diseases by reducing the size of pockets and giving you the gums that you have lost through certain therapies. They also focus on the placement and maintenance of dental implants to prevent implant failure. These are also the experts in treating oral inflammation.

Services Provided

Gum Disease Treatment: Correcting gingivitis and periodontitis through surgical and nonsurgical methods

Scaling & Root Planing: This is a deep cleaning procedure where calculus and tartar are removed from the root surface. 

Periodontal Surgery: Severe gum diseases are treated with this surgery where gum grafting is done. 

Regenerative Procedures: Bone grafting and tissue regeneration processes to grow the supporting structures

Common Procedures

  • Scaling & Root Planning
  • Bone Grafting 
  • Pocket Reduction Surgery 
  • Crown Lengthening 
  • Dental Implant Placement 

Conclusion:

So in summary, there are 6 dental specialties to fully care about your oral health. Dental specialists are experts in their field and that is due to additional education and experience working with patients and in many cases, patients are referred to them for more complex dental work.

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