Shakespeare once said that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. But that’s hardly the case in dentistry that has a lot of specialties.
The long list of oral health care providers can be confusing to consumers who may not know whether to consult an orthodontist, periodontist or endodontist for their particular problem.
As a public service to my faithful readers, here are the different dental specialties. Knowing this will help you consult the right dentist to get the proper dental care and treatment you need.
First of all, don’t be bothered whether your dentist is a DDS (doctor of dental surgery) or DMD (doctor of dental medicine). The two degrees are one and the same. Some schools award one degree while others give the other.
General dentists normally earn a DDS or DMD degree after years of study. To become a specialist, they must undergo additional post-graduate training.
One such specialist is the endodontist who is concerned with the causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the dental pulp – the soft area within the center of the tooth. This specialist performs root canal treatments or other surgical root procedures. This treatment is done to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or infected.
An oral or maxillofacial radiologist is one who produces and interprets all kinds of X-ray images that are used to identify and manage different diseases in the mouth and face.
An oral pathologist, on the other hand, is one who studies diseases that alter or affect the oral structures (teeth, lips, cheeks or jaws) as well as parts of the face and neck. This is accomplished by studying the biopsy, tissue, or lesion that comes from other dental specialists.
If you need surgery of the face, mouth or jaw, you should consult an oral surgeon. This person performs many types of surgical procedures to treat accident victims with facial injuries, remove tumors and cysts of the jaws, and other reconstructive surgery including the placement of dental implants (artificial teeth that are attached to the jawbone).
“The types of surgeries an oral surgeon may perform include: simple tooth extractions, complex extractions involving removal of soft tissue or overlying bone or remaining roots, impacted teeth (especially wisdom teeth) removal, soft tissue biopsies, removal of tumors in the oral cavity, implant positioning, complex jaw realignment surgeries involving facial or bite discrepancies, fractured cheek or jaw bone repair and soft tissue (cleft palate or lip) repair,” according to WebMD.Com.
If you have crooked teeth or a bad bite (malocclusion), see an orthodontist. This specialist straightens teeth by means of bands, wires, braces, and other fixed or removable corrective appliances or retainers.
A pedodontist or pediatric dentist is one who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of dental problems that affect children from age one to early adulthood. He or she looks after the child’s developing teeth and is trained in child behavior and the special needs of children.
For dental problems that involve the gums and bones of the teeth, visit a periodontist. This person treats gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (gum and bone disease).
“A periodontist may perform the following procedures: simple and deep pocket cleanings, root planing, crown lengthening procedures, soft tissue and/or bone grafting, gingival or flap procedures, soft tissue recontouring or removal (gingivoplasty or gingivectomy), hard tissue recontouring (osteoplasty) and implant placement,” said experts at WebMD.Com.
Finally, if you have missing teeth and need dentures, consult a prosthodontist. This specialist repairs natural teeth or will give you a new set of artificial teeth. Another dental practitioner who does this is the implantologist who specializes in dental implants.
“The prosthodontist uses artificial teeth (dentures), gold crowns (caps), or ceramic crowns to replace the missing or extracted teeth. The prosthodontist is also very involved in the replacement of teeth using dental implants. In addition, specially trained prosthodontists work with patients with head and neck deformities, replacing missing parts of the face and jaws with artificial substitutes,” said WebMD.Com.
So there you have it – the different dental specialties and what they can do for you. See the right dentist for expert help and treatment. That way, you get the smile you deserve.