Welcome to the Dental Health Center. It is commonly said that a smile is one of the few things in life that will go away if ignored. While that statement may be true, many people put off proper dental care because they have fear or anxiety about a visit to the dentist, or don’t have the time to research the best ways to maintain their dental health. Our mission is to give you more information about various aspects of dentistry, including cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics, and restorative dental care. We also look at techniques and products you can use to maintain your oral health at home.
Understanding General Dentistry
Dentistry is the field of health care that assesses, diagnoses, prevents and treats diseases of the mouth or oral cavity. This includes evaluating tooth disease, gum disease, jaw disorders and other conditions of the teeth, jawbones and soft tissues like cavities, tooth pain, gum disease, tooth loss, missing or mal-aligned teeth, and also involve serious conditions like cancers or other pathologies.
The goal of dental practice is to curb oral disease and restore the function of the mouth. Prevention of disease from occurring in the first place is also a chief goal. So by seeing your dentist consistently, you can help prevent dental problems that can lead to uncomfortable pain and costly therapies.
A Dentist’s Education
To become a dentist, prospective students first begin training with an undergraduate degree and then apply to dental school. Dental school is a separate four-years of training after which students become dentists with either a DDS or DMD degree.
DDS stands for “doctor of dental surgery” while DMD stands for “doctor of dental medicine.” Though these designations sound different, they have the same educational requirements from the American Dental Association, and are viewed as equivalent degrees.
The American Dental Association was established in 1859 and is a not-for-profit advocacy organization for dental health in America. This organization governs all dental providers in America. Prospective dentists must write national board exams in order to receive their license to practice dentistry.
A dentist’s training does not end with graduation. Dentists are also required to maintain continuing education in order to remain current and up-to-date with their skills and knowledge. Each year or so, dentists must complete many hours of CE and submit their hours to their licensure organization in order to be allowed to practice the next year.
What to Expect
When you visit your dentist, he or she will ask questions about your medical and dental history in order to understand your particular situation. The dentist will then possibly take x-rays to see what is going on inside and in between your teeth, as well as perform a clinical examination to assess your teeth and mouth.
This process will allow you and your dentist to have a good understanding of what is going on in your mouth, and what needs to be done to treat any problems and optimize your oral health. Together you will agree upon a treatment plan and schedule.
Sometimes your dentist may take photos of your mouth or use other tools to better assess the state of your teeth and gums. These are very helpful, especially for comparing before and after treatment shots. It can also be very gratifying for you to see improvements in your oral health and appearance.
General dentists provide a wide variety of services for the oral health care of their patients. Some procedures include:
- Cosmetic procedures
- Restorative procedures
- Crowns and bridges
- Teeth Whitening
- Dental implants
- Root canal treatment
- Dental hygiene therapy
- TMD or jaw disorder therapy
- Mouth guards or splints
The Dental Team
Your dentist is not an island. The team of people working together in the dental office really makes your experience run smoothly. There may be more than one dentist working in your dental office, and likely several hygienists and assistants as well. Dental hygienists are trained to assess and clean your teeth to help you improve and maintain your tooth and gum health.
Dental assistants are trained to work with the dentist and assist in various types of procedures. These individuals also work to ensure proper cleanliness and sterilization of all dental equipment. Often assistants are the ones who take your x-rays and photos to then present to the dentist.
The team is vital to the excellent care your dentist provides.
General Dentist versus Specialist?
After basic undergraduate work, general dentists have a four-year education in dentistry leading to their degree. Specialists also have this training, but have gone on to receive another three to six years of training in a particular field of dentistry. The specialties recognized by the American Dental Association are:
- Dental public health
- Endodontics (root canal specialty)
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
- Orthodontics (tooth and jaw alignment specialty, often using braces)
- Pediatric dentistry
- Periodontics (gum disease specialty)
- Prosthodontics (dental prosthetic specialty, like crowns, bridges, dentures)
Why would my dentist refer me?
General dentists are trained to perform the basics of all dental disciplines, but specialists are often used for more difficult cases or if the particular dentist has chosen to limit the practice to his or her particular interests. Additionally if you need jaw surgery or a biopsy of something performed, often dentists will refer you to pathologist, radiologist or surgeon.
Overall, general dentists are qualified to perform assessments and treatments in all basic areas of dentistry. Your general dentist is the key to maintaining a healthy mouth, and developing a relationship with the dental team often helps alleviate the anxiety of seeing the dentist.
Your general dentist will provide comprehensive dental care for you and your family, keeping you smiling brightly.