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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
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 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 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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