Most people know there are specialty dentists, if only because they or their child have been to an orthodontist. But did you know that there are many other dental specialists beyond the sort who fits your braces? It’s true – and most people would get better dental care if they knew their options. Before you make your next appointment, then, familiarize yourself with the different types of specialists. It might just change your plan of action.
Specialists: The Breakdown
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different number and variety of dental specialists. Among the most common types, though, are general dentists – the ones you’ll see if you need a cavity filled; pediatric dentists, sometimes known as pedontists, who treat children; and orthodontists who, as mentioned above, fit braces, retainers, and generally specialize in tooth and jaw alignment.
For more advanced dental care needs, such as if you have oral nerve pain, a major infection in your tooth, gums, or jaw, or you need to have artificial teeth like dentures fitted, then you’ll need a more highly specialized provider. For example, while most general dentists can perform a root canal, you might prefer to see an endodontist since they specialize in tooth-nerve issues. Meanwhile, if you have serious gum disease, you may want to work with an oral surgeon and oral pathologist to remove diseased tissue and perform repairs.
Finding A Specialist
With a basic understanding of the different dental specialists practicing today, how do you decide who to see? Typically, if your case is beyond your dentist’s area of practice, they will refer you to the appropriate specialist, but you can also look for an appropriate provider on your own. Every area has its own directory, like this directory of dentists in Wichita, KS, that will allow you to sort providers by specialty. You can then reach out to individual specialists to see if they’re a good fit for your needs.
Do You Really Need A Specialist?
How do you know if you really need a dental specialist? It depends on the circumstances. While there’s rarely a need for a pediatric dentist, for example, these professionals are specially equipped to identify issues like crowding or early childhood tooth decay, as well as oral issues related to bottle use or thumb sucking. They’re also skilled at handling the particular developmental and behavioral challenges, which can make for a friendlier, more positive experience for your child.
For other types of dental care, you’ll want to ask a different set of questions. First, talk to your general dentist about their experience in performing a given procedure. As noted above, many general dentists regularly perform root canals, but others prefer to refer those out to endodontists. The same is true of prosthodontists; while it’s best to see a prosthodontist if you need a full set of implants or dentures, since they specialize in oral function rehabilitation among those with major tooth loss, many also do cosmetic work like tooth whitening and veneers, which can also be done by a general dentist. If your normal dentist is comfortable doing this work, there’s no reason to see a specialist.
Dental specialists perform many important tasks, especially for those with serious aesthetic or functional problems, but ultimately general dentists are the workhorses of the industry. They’re trained to do all the basic procedures the average person will need, even if they aren’t technically specialists. Still, when you need something complicated done, you’ll want to know who to call for appropriate care.