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8 Types of Dentists and Why You May Need to See Them
In the last 40 years, Canadians have started to take their dental health more seriously. Every year, 75% of Canadians visit dental clinics for everything from a basic cleaning to oral surgery. The type of dentist seen depends on the person’s oral health.
Every two years, over 86% of Canadians visit their dentist.
A general dentist is who most people will see, but there are multiple dentists that specialise in different areas of dentistry.
What are the Different Types of Dentists?
Most dental specialists in Canada practice general dentistry, including our team at Lighthouse Dental Centre. There is, roughly, 1 dentist for every 1,600 people in Canada, and almost 80% of these dentists will practice general dentistry. Rather than focusing on one area of dentistry, these professionals offer a wide array of services, including:
- Preventative care. Oral health starts with preventive services. These services aim to stop decay from occurring through services that include regular care, x-rays, educating patients on proper cleaning techniques, sealants and even fitting patients for custom mouthguards if they engage in sports.
- Restoration. If you have a cavity or other dental problem, timely treatment is required. Decay is removed from the tooth and a filling is placed in the tooth for a cavity. Additional treatments may include replacing missing teeth, crowns, bridgework and even fitting patients for dentures. Some general dentists may also offer implants, root canal therapy or orthodontic services.
- Cosmetics. A general dentist may also offer cosmetic procedures, such as bonding, teeth whitening or porcelain veneers.
An endodontist is a dental specialist that focuses on the tooth’s pulp, or the soft tissue in the teeth. These specialists undergo the same training as a general dentist, but they also take an additional two years of education to become endodontists.
You may be referred to these specialists when your dentist has difficulty diagnosing an issue or treating a more advanced dental issue.
If you need a root canal, you may be referred to these specialists, who spend more time studying root canal procedures and techniques than other dentists. These professionals aim to save your teeth rather than remove them.
Your bite is important, and if your teeth are misaligned or crooked, an orthodontist is the specialist that you’ll want to see. These professionals can help with a variety of conditions, including but not limited to:
- Grinding or clenching of the teeth
- Tooth alignment issues
- Misplaced or crowded teeth
- Issues with biting the cheek or gums
- Issues related to biting or chewing
- Tooth loss
- Jaw misalignment
- Speech difficulties
- Protruding teeth
If you’re suffering from poor sleep, headaches or migraines that are a result of your dental or oral health, an orthodontist is the type of dentist that you want to see.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
If major surgical procedures are required, an oral or maxillofacial surgeon is often the dental professional that is best suited for the surgery. These professionals are required to enter a four-year residency at an accredited hospital where they’ll train in:
- General surgery
- Internal medicine
During their training, they’ll spend a lot of time working alongside an otolaryngologist, or a person specialising in the ears, nose and throat. Surgeons will also spend some of their training learning about emergency medicine and plastic surgery.
A major focus is put on the jaw, face, mouth and the tissues surrounding these areas.
The wealth of knowledge that these surgeons bring to the dental industry often make them the best candidate for serious dental and oral conditions, including but not limited to:
- Cancer. An oral or maxillofacial surgeon can offer services if you’re suffering from oral cancer.
- Cleft palate. An issue that occurs during fetal development, these specialists can help correct a cleft palate.
- Jaw surgery. If the jaw needs correction, the surgeon can opt to reposition the jaw and/or chin and correct serious dental irregularities.
These surgeons can also assist with issues relating to your wisdom teeth, implants, facial trauma and even issues with your temporomandibular joint.
An important yet lesser-known area of dentistry is that of an oral pathologist. These professionals are experts in diagnosis and are trained to diagnose any issues that you may have with your:
When a general dentist has issues diagnosing conditions, these professionals can use the x-rays and/or take biopsies of a person’s soft tissue or bone to make a diagnosis. The conditions that they can pinpoint include dental issues, but they also understand that gum disease can be linked to other serious conditions, such as stroke, heart disease and even bowel cancer.
These professionals spend a lot of their time learning how to identify cancers in the head or neck.
Infants and children have different concerns with their teeth and tooth development than an adult. Also known as pedodontists, these dental professionals work in a very similar capacity to a general dentist, with the key difference is that they specialise in pediatrics.
Pediatric dentists are trained to deal with a myriad of behavioural issues that occur with infants and children when visiting the dentist.
When a teen reaches the age of 18, most pediatric dentists will refer them to a general dentist and will cease treating these patients. Entering the office of these dentists also provides a different experience. These offices are often designed and decorated to keep young patients occupied.
It's common for a pediatric dentist’s office to have play areas, books and games that aim to keep kids occupied while they wait to be called into the office.
Dental disease impacts 3.5 billion people worldwide. A periodontist is responsible for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of periodontal disease. These professionals will focus on treating the inflammation caused by the disease and also specialise in the placement of dental implants.
A periodontist will undergo three additional years of schooling where they learn how to properly treat and diagnose periodontal disease. Cosmetic procedures are also learned at this time.
The treatments they offer depend on the patient’s condition, but may include:
- Root planning
- Root surface debridement
- Gum treatments
If the disease is advanced, these dentists can offer surgical treatments and are highly trained in dental implant placement.
The final type of dentist is a prosthodontist. These dental specialists focus their training on restoring damaged or missing teeth and the oral structures surrounding these areas. If complex oral procedures are needed, it’s not uncommon for a prosthodontist to be called in for the procedure.
Some of the many procedures that a prosthodontist may offer are:
- Bridges, which link multiple crowns together to fill in spaces where you’re missing teeth.
- Crowns or caps that protect and cover areas of the tooth that may be missing.
- Implants, which offer a natural bite and smile while replacing missing teeth.
- Bonding and veneers, which can be applied to correct teeth that are discolored, cracked or even misshapen.
- Dentures may also be made by a prosthodontist, who will use their training and expertise to match and fit dentures for the patient.
There are a wide variety of dentists that can help you along your dental journey, from a pediatric dentist that will see you when you’re under 18 to a surgeon that can offer options if you have advanced dental issues.
For most people, the first type of dentist they’ll see is a general dentist. From here, their general dentist may then recommend them to one of the many dental specialists listed above.
Contact us today so we can discuss all your options with you.