General Dentistry: Common Treatments & Procedures

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What is General Dentistry?

By definition, dentistry is the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the body’s oral and maxillofacial region (ADA, American Dental Association).

The most common dental care providers are general dentists, who make up about 80 percent of practitioners. The other 20 percent consists of dental specialists, including:

80 percent of dental practitioners are general dentists

20 percent of dental practitioners are dental specialists.

General dentists offer preventive and restorative services, such as x-rays, teeth cleanings, cavity fillings, and sealants. Unlike specialists, who focus on one specific area of dentistry, general dentists offer a wide range of treatments and procedures. They also treat patients of all ages.

Dental specialists, such as endodontists, are highly skilled at performing and treating tooth pain, specifically root canals. Some patients visit a general dentist to receive a root canal, while others may see an endodontist if their situation requires specialized root canal treatment.

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Qualifications of General Dentists

Dentistry is a “hands-on” practice. The profession requires four years of highly accredited education after completing a bachelor’s degree. This intensive education allows general dentists to gain dexterity, skills in performing tasks with their hands, as well as in-depth scientific knowledge about the field.

General dentists also specialize in specific types of procedures based on their individual skills and current needs of patients.

General Dentistry Treatments

Many general dentists use a combination of specialized care, including oral surgery, restorative services, and basic dental care treatments. Common general dentistry treatments include:

Types of General Dentistry Procedures

When visiting a general dentist, whether you are going in for a routine dental exam or a minor oral surgery, there are many options to choose from.

Services offered by general dentists include restorative services, preventive treatments, oral surgery, and cosmetic dentistry:

cavity filling

Restorative Dentistry

During routine dental exams, your dentist searches for cavities and signs of oral diseases. If you show up positive for tooth decay, they will recommend an indirect or direct restoration. Restorative dental procedures are the “bread-and-butter” of general dentistry.

Direct Restoration Materials

Direct restorations are repairs made inside the mouth (e.g., cavity fillings). These restorations are also usually placed within one office visit.

  • Composite is a tooth-colored, adhesive bonding material made of acrylic resin. Composite is one of the most common restorative materials for cavity fillings, dental bonds, inlays, and veneers.
  • Amalgam is a mixture of up to 54 percent mercury with silver, tin, and copper. This material is commonly used to restore back teeth (premolars and molars).
  • Conventional Glass Ionomer (CGI) is another tooth-colored restorative material. Glass ionomer is not as durable as amalgam or composite. CGI can effectively restore front teeth, including incisors and canines. Dentists do not restore back teeth, such as premolars and molars, with glass ionomer.
  • Resin-Modified Glass Ionomer (RMGI’s) are similar to conventional glass ionomers, but with more strength and added acrylic resins. RMGI is only used to restore baby teeth.

Indirect Restoration Materials

General dentists also offer indirect restoration procedures (materials made outside of the mouth based on an individual’s teeth impressions). However, unlike direct restoration options, they require at least two dental visits.

The first step is to prepare the teeth by removing decay and preparing them for the indirect restoration. Then an impression is made. Lastly, your dentist sends the impressions to a dental laboratory to be created.

During the second visit, the restorations are fitted to the teeth and any necessary adjustments are made. Patients currently have a few indirect restoration treatments to choose from, including:

  • Dental crowns are tooth-shaped caps that fit over a tooth. The primary purpose of a dental crown is to restore decayed, missing, or cracked tooth structure. Although, unlike veneers, they are not cosmetic.
  • Dentures are full or partial sets of fake teeth. 
  • Dental implants are artificial tooth roots.
  • Inlays and onlays are indirect fillings that replace old dental fillings. Inlays fit inside the top edges of teeth, while onlays extend over the cusps of teeth.
  • Wisdom tooth removal is one of the most common dental surgeries. Oral surgeons and some dentists, such as general dentists, perform these procedures.
  • Root canals are necessary when the soft tissues (containing nerves and blood vessels) in a patient's tooth are infected. The treatment relieves pain and also saves your tooth from extraction.
  • Tooth extractions are needed when a becomes heavily decayed. During the procedure, a dentist or surgeon removes the tooth from its socket in the bone to prevent further damage.
veneer

Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of dentistry. Many patients electively seek cosmetic procedures. This is because these treatments enhance an individual's smile, which boosts their confidence and improves their appearance.

People of all ages can safely receive cosmetic treatment from a certified dental professional.

Additionally, if you suffer from extreme anxiety about procedures, sedation dentistry is also an option to ensure the process runs smoothly. Since cosmetic treatment is becoming more popular, many general dentists in the U.S. specialize in these procedures. Treatment options include veneers and professional teeth whitening:

  • Porcelain veneers are shells that bond over the front edge of a tooth to improve its appearance. Veneers also change the color and shape of teeth.
  • Professional teeth whitening is a safe and effective cosmetic treatment that lightens discolored teeth.

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Resources

https://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/general-dentistry

Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.

Blue Ocean Publishing Group. The Million Dollar Smile, Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry. 2018.

Updated on: October 20, 2020
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Alyssa Hill
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