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Section Questions and Answers

Dentists and Dental Specialists

General dentists and dental specialists

  • The general dentist is qualified to carry out most dental procedures.
    A patient may be referred to a specialist for a second opinion or when the treatment seems to require specialised knowledge and skill.
  • A dental specialist works in a more specialised, and therefore a narrower field, than a general dentist.
    A specialist is equipped to treat cases where the complexity of a condition requires additional qualification and skills.
  • Specialists may overlap in the treatments they undertake. For instance, both periodontists and prosthodontists may replace teeth using implants. In addition, a general dentist may carry out procedures that could in certain circumstances be referred to a specialist.

General dentists

  • The general dentist is the person we usually refer to as "the dentist".
    • Patients should visit the dentist every six months for a dental check-up, which may include routine dental x-rays and a scale and polish treatment.
    • Some dentists employ dental hygienists for the cleaning, scaling and polishing of teeth. Others perform this procedure themselves.
    • Dentists are qualified to diagnose dental problems and treat patients of all ages.
    • If necessary these will be referred to a specialist dentist.
    • Fillings, extractions, root canal treatments, replacement crowns, bridges, veneers, dentures and other treatments, are routinely undertaken by a general dentist.
    • The dentist can administer a local anaesthetic, but general anaesthesia must be administered by a specialist anaesthetist, in a specially equipped theatre.

Specialist dentists

  • In addition to their basic dental training, specialist dentists have to complete at least another two years of training.
    • They undertake procedures that require specialist knowledge and skill in specific areas of dentistry.
    • Specialist dentists usually practise in their specialised field only.
  • Endodontists
    • Endodontists are specialists who treat the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth.
    • They treat conditions caused by injury or disease.
    • The most common treatment by an endodontist is a root canal treatment.
    • This involves removing dead or diseased tissue from the root canal, filling it with a special material, and then sealing it to prevent infection.
    • This procedure can save a tooth which would otherwise have to be extracted.
    • Endodontists also perform operations such as amputating a root from a multi-rooted tooth, or removing the tip of a root (apicectomy).
  • Oral and maxillo-facial surgeons
    These specialists deal with difficult extractions, such as the removal of impacted wisdom teeth.
    • They also perform surgery on other parts of the face and mouth:
    • Tumours are removed from the head, neck, mouth and face.
    • Jaws can be re-aligned by surgery.
    • Implants are placed in the jaw to make tooth reconstruction possible.
      These implants will be used to support replacement crowns, bridges, or dentures.
  • Orthodontists
    Orthodontists straighten teeth and correct the alignment of teeth and jaws.
    • This improves both the function and the appearance of the teeth.
    • When there is crowding the orthodontist may need to extract some teeth.
    • Wires, rubber bands and various other devices are used to move teeth into their correct alignment.
    • Most orthodontic patients are children and adolescents.
    • Increasingly, however, adults are having the function and appearance of their mouths improved by orthodontics.
  • Paedodontists
    These are paediatric dentists that specialise in the treatment of children.
    • Paedodontists treat children from the age of one to adolescence or early adulthood.
    • They are trained to recognise early problems and to predict potential problems from early symptoms.
    • They will watch for decay, crowding, teeth out of position, injury or disease.
    • Knowledge of child psychology enables the paediatric dentist to treat nervous and anxious children sensitively.
  • Periodontists
    Periodontists are dentists who specialise in diagnosing and treating conditions of the gums, bone and other tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.
    • These conditions may be caused by disease or injury.
    • Periodontists treat gingivitis and periodontitis.
    • They may graft gum tissue or bone where these have been destroyed.
    • They may place implants in the jaw to support tooth replacements.
    • The repairing or reconstructing of supporting tissues saves teeth that would otherwise loosen, fall out or be extracted.
  • Prosthodontists
    Prosthodontists are dentists who specialise in the repair or replacement of worn, broken or missing teeth.
    • Prosthodontists design and place crowns, bridges and dentures. These may be supported by implants, as well as by the remaining natural teeth.
    • A dental technician (not a dentist or dental specialist) makes these crowns, bridges and dentures from impressions of the patient's mouth and teeth taken by the prosthodontist.

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