Most people are aware that dentists and specialists are different, but can’t explain how. Generally, if your teeth are happy and healthy, you will only have needed to see your dentist, unless they refer you to a specialist.
So, what are the differences between a general dentist and a specialist?
A general dentist is who you will visit for your annual check up. They are responsible for examining your teeth and gums and may provide treatment such as fillings, crowns, veneers and root canals. All general dentists have studied for at least five years and have taken final examinations which have enabled them to become registered members of the General Dental Council, our governing body in the UK.
These individuals will have spent an extended amount of time studying dentistry in their chosen field, and therefore are able to perform specific procedures in their field alongside standard ones. There are different types of specialists, these include:
Orthodontists complete an additional two to three years studying orthodontics and specialise in aligning the teeth, facial abnormalities and disorders of the jaw. Many people will have heard of orthodontists because they are responsible for fitting braces.
Endodontists have an additional three years of specific training that looks at the dental pulp, which is the soft tissue between the tooth’s outer enamel and the dentin. They mainly perform difficult and irregular root canal procedures.
- Paediatric dentists
Paediatric dentists complete an additional two years of training in dentistry for infants, adolescents and children with learning difficulties. They focus on making these patients feel welcomed and comfortable and often work with paediatricians to provide effective medical care. They can treat problems relating to tooth decay and missing or crooked teeth, but do not perform more significant procedures.
Prosthodontists gain additional training in restoring and replacing broken teeth with dentures, bridges and implants. They also have specialised training in post oral cancer reconstruction, jaw joint problems, snoring and sleeping disorders and significant injuries of the mouth.
- Oral surgeons
Oral surgeons complete at least four years of post-graduate surgical hospital residency and specialise in treating injuries and diseases of the mouth, jaw, neck, teeth and gums. You may have visited an oral surgeon if you have had difficulty with your wisdom teeth and needed them removed. They also specialise in reconstructive surgery for trauma or aesthetic reasons.
Periodontists train for an additional three years to become specialised in the field. They treat diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth, which is the most common gum diseases. They may also perform deep pocket cleanings alongside crown lengthening procedures and hard tissue reshaping.
Which should I see?
You should always make an initial appointment with a general dentist, they will then be able to examine and diagnose. A general dentist will be able to perform the majority of the same procedures as a specialist, but they may refer you to a specialist if the procedure you require is complex or needs an extra level of care.
If you are concerned about your oral health, make an appointment with your dentist today.