Your local dentist, or the dentist you see regularly every six months or is probably a general dentist, and will have either DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) or the letters DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) after their name. Both degrees mean exactly the same thing and it’s simply because different dental schools have different names for the degree.
Your general dentist is qualified to perform checkups, regular cleanings, fillings, and a number of other common procedures. They are able to look after all your dental needs most of the time, but there may be occasions when they need to refer you to a specialist dentist who has achieved the board certification in their chosen field. These include the following specialties:
Your dentist will refer you to an endodontist if you have a problem that requires root canal treatment. Dentists who specialize in endodontics have completed at least two more years of advanced specialty education in the diagnosis and treatment of root canals and can treat difficult cases. Their surgery is likely to use advanced technology such as digital imaging and operating microscopes to perform root canals, ensuring the process is smooth, quick, and most important of all, comfortable for you.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
You are likely to be referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon if you need wisdom teeth extracted, or if you need dental implants, or if you require some sort of facial reconstructive surgery. Maxillofacial surgeons have completed at least four more years of surgical training after dental school and are extremely highly qualified. Their training is focused upon the hard and soft tissues of the face, jaws, and mouth. They can perform corrective surgery on these areas of the face, and reconstructive surgery on facial injuries, whether due to trauma or to cancer.
You are likely to be referred to an orthodontist if you have crooked teeth, or if your teeth meet together incorrectly, as they can design corrective braces to gently move the teeth into the correct positions. Orthodontists have graduated from a specialty program in order to become board certified.
A periodontist is a specialist in treating diseases of the soft tissue and bone in the mouth. Your general dentist will refer you to see a periodontist if you develop gum disease, as this can affect not only your gums but also the bones that support your teeth. Periodontists have undertaken an extra three years of education after dental school and can use the very latest techniques in diagnosing and treating gum disease.
They also perform a number of other treatments, as they are trained to place and repair dental implants, and can also perform cosmetic periodontal procedures on your gums. For example, if you have lost a significant amount of gum tissue due to disease, they can perform gum grafts to replace this tissue or can reshape your gums to make them more cosmetically pleasing.
A prosthodontist specializes in the replacement of missing teeth, restoring both looks and function. They are able to supply removable partial and full dentures, dental implants, as well as crowns, bridges, veneers, and inlays. They can diagnose and treat temporomandibular joint disorder problems; these are problems with the joint that hinges your jaw open and shut.
They can also manage congenital disorders to mouth structures such as cleft palate, sleep, and snoring disorders, and are able to manage oral cancer reconstruction. Your prosthodontist will have completed another two or three years of additional training in a hospital or university after qualifying as a dentist.
Pediatric dentists specialize in the treatment of children, and also qualified to treat patients who have medical, mental, or physical disabilities. Pediatric dentists have completed another two or three years of specialized training to deal with specific problems associated with children’s dental health.
As you’d expect, a children’s dental office is quite different from adults and is designed to make children feel safe and comfortable so they aren’t scared, and are more willing to learn about how to look after their teeth properly. Pediatric dentists treat children as young as several months old, as it’s never too early to start on a lifetime of great dental care.
There is one other type of dentist you might want to know about, and that’s a cosmetic dentist. More and more people are choosing to have cosmetic dentistry nowadays, and dental professionals interested in this field frequently belong to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. The advantage of choosing a dentist who belongs to this organization is that you’ll know they will have made sure they are up-to-date with all the latest technology and techniques and will be interested in providing you with the most aesthetically pleasing smile.