Most people go to a general dentist for the majority of their dental needs. A general dentist takes care of all kinds of patients, young and old, from “baby teeth” to “wisdom teeth.” But there are some dental conditions for which he may ask you to see a specialist. In this case your general dentist will rely on the recommendations and guidance of the dental specialist to bring your mouth back to health.
This dental specialist is concerned with the diagnosis and cause of diseases affecting the pulp or nerve of the tooth, or the tissues on tooth. These nerves, arteries and veins inside the tooth help keep the tooth alive. The most common procedure the endodontist performs is called root canal therapy. Root canal treatment consists of removing the infected tissue inside the tooth, sterilizing the inside, and filling the entire internal cavity with a special filling material. The tooth is now considered “non-vital.”
Oral pathologists are dental specialists who study the nature of the diseases altering and affecting all the oral structures (teeth, lips, cheeks, jaw bones) as well as parts of the face and neck. In most cases the oral pathologist does not see you, but your dentist would send them a biopsy or any questionable tissue or lesion.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Dentists that have the dental specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgeon diagnose and surgically treat diseases, defects or injuries of the mouth, head and neck. Most patients think of oral surgeons removing wisdom teeth, and this is one of the most common procedures of oral surgeons. But they are involved with many other treatments such as of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD). In accident cases they are called on to help with broken bones of the face and jaw. Or in working with other specialists such as cosmetic dentists and orthodontists, they will be asked to intentionally realign bones for a better position of the jaws for improved esthetics or function. Many are now involved with placing dental implants, which substitute the root part of missing teeth. The prosthodontist or general dentist will build a new tooth “crown” on top of the dental implant.
Orthodontics is one of the popular dentist specialties. The orthodontist is a dental specialist who moves teeth within the jaw bone to correct forms of malocclusion or bite irregularities. Most children are sent to the orthodontist to correct their “bad bites” while they are still growing. Adults should also see an orthodotnics specialist to correct any bite problems before they undergo extensive crown or bridge work. The most common method of correcting a “bad bite” is with the use of dental braces, but at times only a removable tooth positioning guard is needed. Read more about orthodontists.
Pediatric Dentist (Pedodontist)
Having been specially trained to handle the fears of children as well as watch the growth patterns of a child’s mouth, the pedodontist treats children from birth through adolescence, though the most common age for a child to start seeing a pedodontist is age three. Usually the pedodontists are dentist specialties who get extra training for the proper care of patients with special needs who demonstrate mental, physical, and/or emotional problems.
The periodontist diagnoses and treats diseases of the gum and supporting bone surrounding the teeth. Most people think of this type of dentist treating infections of the gums which causes teeth to become loose. Most times the general dentist will send a patient to the periodontist for an evaluation to check the “foundation” of the teeth before any major reconstruction is started. The periodontist is also the dental specialist involved with the placement of implants for areas of missing teeth and can surgically make changes in the gum tissue for a more natural gum smile line. He works closely with the general dentist to bring a patient’s mouth back to full bite function with a full healthy smile.
Prosthodontists are dentist specialists dealing with the repairing of natural teeth and/or the replacement of missing teeth on a much larger scale than the general dentist. The prosthodontist uses artificial teeth (dentures), gold crowns (caps), or ceramic crowns to replace the missing or extracted teeth. They work with the general dentist on more complicated dental reconstruction cases. Not everyone needs the extensive care of a prosthodontist.