Understanding Dental Specialties
Dental Specialties, Defined
- General or, Family Practice
- Oral/Maxillo Facial Surgeons
- Pediatric Dentists
All dentists are trained to provide nearly every dental need a patient might present. But, like medicine, knowledge has advanced to the point that keeping track of new developments for each discipline is nearly impossible. While some dentists might branch deeply into more than one area, specialists focus all their efforts in their area of specialty.
General or, Family Practice dentists are able to provide care for a variety of needs, and are the usual starting point for most care. This is a speciality that includes normal exams and x-rays, teeth cleening, fillings, crowns and bridges, cosmetic dentistry and whitening, implants, dentures, and more. Each office determines the scope of care they choose to offer, and will refer you to a specialist for an area of care they believe warrants specialized training.
Prosthodontists receive extra training in replacing missing teeth with dentures or partial dentures, and solving complex problems related to breakdown of the oral system that might require crowns or bridges, and full mouth reconstruction. Their skills are applied to the replacement of missing teeth, cosmetic dentistry reconstructions, and situations with advanced bone loss requiring surgery and/or reconstruction over dental implants.
Endodontists are experts in saving infected teeth that most often prevent the need for extractions. The inside of teeth are hollow and alive with blood vessels and nerves. Sometimes the live tissue will die and need to be removed. Unfortunately, the hollow sections of tooth structure can be complicated to work with, even unaccessable. Endodontists are especially well trained to manage the very difficult challenges teeth sometimes present, such as the need for root canals.
Oral/Maxillo Facial Surgeons require at least 4 years of advanced education. They are experts in removing wisdom teeth and other teeth that can't be saved, placing dental implants, and performing surgery in any of the oral structures, including jaw modifications to replace missing bone. Maxillo Facial Surgeons will perform broader surgical procedures, including correction of complex bone structures adjacent to the mouth
Periodontists are specialized surgeons trained to care for all the tissue immediately surrounding teeth: gums, bone, and the ligaments that connect them. They perform periodontal surgery to remove diseased tissue and provide better access for cleaning to prevent further damage. When successful, patients can quite often avoid losing their teeth. They are also skilled in the placement of dental implants used to support new teeth replacing those that have been lost.
TMJ & Sleep Apnea/Sleep Disorders experts can include dentists of all types that have spent extra time dedicated to learning and treating the TMJ joints and other areas near our ears that support jaw movement. Mild to severe discomfort can be the result when these complex areas are over-worked or out of balance. Pain can extend through the neck, head, shoulders, ears, face, and areas of the mouth. An additional component can be sleep abnormalities like sleep apnea and snoring.
Pediatric Dentists only treat children. Their expertise includes all aspects of normal dental care, as well as, the unususal diseases and malformaties that some children will unfortunately experience. Pediatric Dentists are especially qualified to manage the emotional needs of children who often don't have the means to fully understand their dental experience.
Orthodontists often come with sub specialities that include, adult orthodontics, and special needs children, such as cleft palate. They often are teamed with oral surgeons and periodontists who might provide surgical modifications to aid tooth movement, or a referring general practitioner or prosthodontist managing full mouth reconstruction, an implant case, or a TMJ patient.