One common misconception about dentists is that their sole focus is to take care of people’s teeth. Dentists are highly trained professionals who must graduate from an accredited dental school program and be licensed. They treat specific issues with a person’s teeth, but they also treat other parts of the mouth, such as a person’s gums. Overall oral health is a key concern for dentists, and there are actually 9 different specialties that dentists can choose to pursue. Some dental specialists even treat issues in the jaw and neck as part of their regular duties. Since not all dentists focus on the same clientele or types of treatment it’s important to consider your particular dental needs and understand how some dentists differ so that you can select the best professional to look after your oral health care needs.
A regular dentist tends to perform the most common dental procedures for all age groups. Their focus is to provide standard dental care for their patients. Many associate a trip to the dentist with checkups to ensure your teeth are healthy or routine treatments, such as having wisdom teeth removed or cavities filled. Other dental care that dentists provide includes teeth cleaning, teeth whitening, fluoride treatments, and dental care instruction. 86.5% of dentists work as general dentists, with the majority of these dentists employed in dental offices.
Some general dentists emphasize Preventative Oral Hygiene Services to help clients avoid developing cavities or to address less serious dental issues before they become complex. In fact, some dentists encourage patients to consider diet as part of their dental health treatment and promote natural treatments for dental issues. Individuals who prefer holistic medicine may seek dentists who emphasize a preventative and natural approach to dental treatment whenever possible.
A pediatric dentist is a dentist who has trained to focus on treating children. Since pediatric dentists develop their practice with young patients in mind they are more likely to have colorful rooms with toys and child-centered decor. This can help young patients feel comfortable when they go to the dentist.
Children have a lot of unique dental health needs. They are passing important milestones, such as cutting their first teeth, losing their first teeth and growing their first adult teeth. While a general dentist may spend most of their time treating issues related to adult teeth, pediatric dentists are more familiar with the needs that precede the arrival of adult teeth. Many pediatric dentists emphasize preventative dental care as well and help educate parents about how to ensure their child develops good dental health care practices.
Some people aren’t good with children, and that’s another important consideration. Pediatric dentists have specifically prepared to help young patients have positive dental care experiences. This means that young children may be more likely to have a positive experience with a pediatric dentist who is comfortable interacting with children, has child-sized chairs and equipment, and creates a warm, child-friendly environment.
There are a number of oral health issues that seniors are more likely to experience than younger patients. As the population ages, some dentists are emphasizing dental care for seniors to ensure that common age-related issues are not overlooked. For example, elderly individuals are more likely to need dentures do to being edentulous or losing a number of teeth.
As pediatric dentists, geriatric dentists have chosen to focus on oral health care needs for people within a specific age group. Due to this emphasis, they are more familiar with age-related factors that can contribute to specific types of oral health issues, ensuring potential issues aren’t overlooked when they treat their patients.
Dentists who emphasize treatments for seniors may help individuals apply for or access dental healthcare funding. There are also geriatric dentists who make home visits so that older patients do not have to leave their homes to receive professional dental care. This is significant because as people age they may have issues traveling or find medical appointments stressful. They may also suffer from other health issues that make visiting a dentist’s office challenging. By providing in-home services, these dentists ensure that individuals with specific dental health needs can receive appropriate care.
Dental Public Health Specialists
Some dentists opt to specialize in the field of public health. Their focus emphasizes research and development. Instead of seeing an individual patient, assessing their needs and providing treatment, dental public health specialists look at specific groups of people and their dental needs. Their focus may be on individuals living in a particular state or people who are part of a specific community. They work to identify common oral health care issues within that region or group and then figure out ways to effectively reduce or eliminate those problems.
For example, dental public health specialists focused on inner-city areas with high numbers of people living in poverty may promote programs offering dental care in school settings or community-based dental clinics for low-income residents.
Although dental public health specialists are dentists, they spend a lot of time looking at data so they need to be good at analyzing information. They also need good problem-solving skills so that they can come up with innovative ways to address the issues they identify.
There are 9 official dental specialties, which includes pediatric dentists and dental public health specialists. The other specialties focus on treating specific types of dental needs. An individual with extensive gum-related issues, or problems with the jawbone may be treated by a periodontist. A person who has crooked teeth may need to see an orthodontist for braces, while prosthodontists concentrate on replacing teeth by implanting crowns, They also make molds of a patient’s mouth to produce things like dentures. Individuals in need of root-canal treatment may be referred to an endodontist.
As part of a person’s oral health care, they may need to see an oral pathologist, who can assess and diagnose issues in their mouth, or oral and maxillofacial radiologists, who evaluate potential issues in a person’s head or neck. These specialists could diagnose anything from a minor bump inside the mouth to cancer. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons operate on any part of the body that relates to oral health care, including the head, neck, and mouth. Their tasks may be as varied as operating on a cleft palate or extracting teeth.
While many of the issues that dentists focus on treating relate to oral health care, cosmetic dentists focus on how a person’s mouth and teeth look. While there is overlap with some of the services that general dentists and dental specialists provide, those who specialize in cosmetic dentistry emphasize services that are intended to improve appearance.
Cosmetic dentists can apply treatments to whiten a person’s teeth. This helps individuals who have discolored teeth from alcohol or tobacco use or aging. Another option cosmetic dentists provide is fillings that are colored to match a person’s teeth so that they aren’t readily visible.
Individuals who have chipped teeth can also turn to a cosmetic dentist to have the damage repaired, and trained cosmetic dentists can install things like inlays, crowns and bridges.
Cosmetic dentists are also equipped to use aligners and braces to help correct tooth placement in a person’s mouth. An individual who has misaligned teeth may need to see a dental specialist to have their teeth corrected so that they can accommodate future tooth growth or to keep a tooth from cutting the tongue or inside of your mouth. Other individuals who simply have gaps in between their teeth that they don’t find visually appealing may opt to see a cosmetic dentist to have those spaces eliminated.