As a prelude it might help to decide just why a dentist of any sort is needed. Many might think of a dentist only for their teeth, but it really should be for their oral health, which is now defined by the FDI World Dental Federation that “includes the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and convey a range of emotions through facial expression with confidence and without pain, discomfort and disease of the craniofacial complex.” Obviously there is a lot more involved than just teeth.
Say you are new to town, or just haven’t been to the dentist in a while, what type of office do you choose to go to? The American Dental Association recognizes 9 specialties which are Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Endodontics, Periodontics, Orthodontics, Prosthodontics, Pedodontics, Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology and Public Health. Cosmetic Dentistry is not a specialty, nor is Implantology or Family Dentistry. By specializing, that office is limited to treating just that aspect of dentistry.
Oral & Maxillofacial surgery includes the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries and defects involving both the functional and esthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. Probably the most commonly thought of procedure an oral surgeon’s office does is extracting (pulling) wisdom teeth, but they would also be doing treatment for cleft palate, fractured jaws and cancer removal.
Endodontics is concerned with the morphology, physiology and pathology of the dental pulp (nerve) and periradicular tissues (around the root). The treatment most known is the root canal where the dead or dying nerve is removed to treat an abscessed (infected) tooth.
Pediatric Dentistry (Pedodontics) provides both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs.
Periodontics encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth (gum and bone) or their substitutes and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. Most people have heard the term gum disease which can be a milder form known as gingivitis, or severe, known as periodontitis which affects the bone supporting the teeth.
Orthodontics includes the diagnosis, prevention, interception and correction of malocclusion, as well as neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities. Everyone has heard of having braces.
Prosthodontics pertains to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes. More often than not, they will be doing the difficult reconstruction cases.
Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology deals with the nature, identification and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions.
Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology is concerned with the production and interpretation of images used for diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region.
Public Health is the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community efforts. Think serving the community as a patient rather than just an individual.
General Dentistry is just that, general, doing all or most treatment aspects and for all members of the family. Many general dentistry offices may choose not to do certain aspects of treatment which could be because they don’t enjoy that aspect, they don’t see enough of it to be worth while or they simply do focus on another aspect which keeps them busy enough that there isn’t enough time to do the rest. You don’t have to be a specialist to limit what you treatment you offer, you just can’t say you’re a specialist unless you are Board Certified. With the exception of pedodontics, all of the specialists are able to treat only part of your dental needs. An endodontist is not going to fill your tooth, nor is the orthodontist or periodontist, etc. They don’t even check your teeth for cavities. The pedodontist likely offers everything needed, but only to a certain age. After that a new dental home will need to be found. The bottom line is this; every one should have a general dentist, a dental home where all aspects of your dental health can be kept up with, and if/when you need something that isn’t offered in that office, see the specialist recommended. Any specialist will likely do the work, but by using the recommended one, there is a certain level of follow-up and communication that the general dentist expects from that specialist that you may not get elsewhere.
If you are in need of a dental home, give us a call.