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What Dental Care Does a General Dentist Perform?

A young man wakes up in the middle of the night. His right tooth near the back of his mouth is hurting. It’s not a real sharp pain, but just enough to disturb his sleep. The next morning, as he eats his breakfast, he takes a sip of cool orange juice… The juice feels like a cold vice on his tooth. As the day progresses, the man realizes that the pain involved with his tooth is getting worse and worse. He knows he needs to get to a dentist office, but how does he decide where to go?

Although the story is fiction, this situation does happen on a regular basis. When a person experiences tooth pain, they know the next step is to go to a dentist; but there are lots of different types of dentists. How does a person know which type of dentist to use?

First, what different types of dentists are there? The simplest way to categorize dentists is two ways: General Dentists and Specialists. General Dentists are often referred to as “family dentists” or “general practitioners.” A general dentist can perform all of the basic maintenance on teeth, as well as some of the more serious procedures.

The other type of dentist is considered a “specialist.” There are many different types of specialists, and each concentrates on a specific area of the mouth. All specialists have the same basic training as a general dentist, but they also have additional schooling in their particular field. Here is a list of some of the different types of specialists available:

  • An Oral Surgeon specializes in surgery, infections, and extractions of teeth.
  • An Endodontist specializes in the roots and surrounding pulp inside the tooth.
  • An Orthodontist specializes in adjusting teeth using braces and retainers.
  • A Periodontist specializes in the gums and gum disease.
  • A Prosthodontist specializes in false teeth such as dentures and bridges.
  • And a Pedodontist specializes in children’s dentistry and baby teeth.

What Does a General Dentist Do?

General dentists are trained to do all different types of work on the teeth, and it is up to the specific office on which procedures they are comfortable performing. Just about every dentist can perform examinations, x-rays, cleanings and simple fillings. Most dentists can also take care of crowns, bridges, and simple dentures. Some dentists will also do root canals and some gum work like deep-cleaning. The exact procedures performed by the general dentist are up to the discretion of that particular dentist. Some general dentists prefer to only do check-ups and cleanings, while other general dentists will do just about everything in their office.

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So, given this information, should someone with a toothache go to a general dentist or to a specialist? I would advise that most people go to the general dentist first. Work done by a general dentist will usually be less expensive than work done by a specialist. Also, a general dentist can advise what kind of specialist would be necessary for a given problem. Also, the general dentist is going to be able to perform a wide range of services and it is often not even necessary to go to a specialist.

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