Visiting your dentist is essential to maintaining proper oral health. But did you know that there are several different types of dentists? Just like doctors specialize in different parts of the body, dentists specialize in different oral health concerns. Dentists that go on to receive a specialty may study for up to eight more years after four years of dental school!
So how do you know which type of dentist is right for your dental needs? Let’s learn more below.
Types of dentists
The type of dentist you should see depends on the oral health condition you have or need to treat. Below are some of the most common dental specialties.
General dentists are your primary care dental providers responsible for managing your oral health, including general education, routine cleanings, and minor treatments to help prevent major oral health concerns. General dentists diagnose and treat any issues related to gum care, root canals, fillings, crowns, veneers, and bridges.
Education: Three or more years of undergraduate education plus four years of dental school.
Visit a general dentist if: It’s time for a routine cleaning or check-up, you lose or crack a tooth, you’re experiencing oral pain, or notice any other signs of disease or infection.
Orthodontists specialize in treating teeth and jaw irregularities. They can correct existing conditions or prevent developing problems with removable dental devices such as braces, retainers, and bands.
Education: Three or more years of undergraduate education, four years of dental school, and three years of specialized orthodontic training.
Visit an orthodontist if: You have crooked or unevenly spaced teeth, an overbite or an underbite, or a jaw misalignment that needs correcting.
Pediatric dentists specialize in oral care for infants, children, and teenagers. Not only do pediatric dentists carry specific knowledge of children’s teeth, but they receive special education to also be patient and comforting during exams and procedures.
Visit a pediatric dentist if: Your child is six months to 18 years of age and requires general dental care.
Education: Three or more years of undergraduate education, four years of dental school, plus at least two additional years of training in dentistry for infants, children, teens, and children with special needs.
Periodontists specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating gum disease. Periodontists manage gum disease that is considered severe and, therefore, cannot be treated by your general dentist. In addition, periodontists will provide you with implants or perform corrective procedures such as root scaling and root planing.
Visit a periodontist if: You have severe gum disease that requires periodontal treatment.
Education: Three or more years of undergraduate education, four years of dental school, and three years of specialized training in periodontics.
An oral surgeon performs surgery on the mouth, jaw, and face. Among the different types of dentists, oral surgeons receive the most training. Common problems they treat include tooth extractions, corrective jaw surgery, or cleft lip and palate repair.
Visit an oral surgeon if: Your dentist recommends surgery (see a list of common oral surgeries here).
Education: Three or more years of undergraduate education, four years of dental school, plus four to eight years of additional training.
Prosthodontists specialize in repairing natural teeth and replacing missing teeth, as well as restoring jaw structures. Unlike general dentists, prosthodontists repair and replace these teeth with artificial ones (dentures, implants, caps, and crowns).
Visit a prosthodontist if: You have missing, decayed, broken, or damaged teeth that need prosthetic replacement or have problems with your jaw that require specialized attention.
Education: Three or more years of undergraduate education, four years of dental school, and three years of specialized training in prosthodontics.
If you’re still unsure whether you need to see a specialized dentist, consult with your general dentist about which dentist is right for you and your needs.