Updated on February 7, 2024
5 min read

General Dentistry: Common Treatments & Procedures

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What is General Dentistry?

General dentists are the main dental care providers to people of all ages. They provide routine checkups, examinations, and cleanings.

Their services are geared toward cleaning, restoration, and disease prevention. Depending on your mouth’s condition, they may refer you to a specialist.

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

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, and in-depth scientific knowledge about the field. General dentists also specialize in specific types of procedures based on their individual skills and the current needs of patients.

How is a General Dentist Different From a Specialist?

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.

General dentists offer preventive and restorative services, such as: 

  • X-rays
  • Teeth cleanings
  • Cavity fillings
  • Sealants 

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 they require specialized root canal treatment.

What Services Do General Dentists Offer?

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

When Should You See A General Dentist?

You should see a general dentist at least twice a year or every six months. The time between these appointments is just long enough to see any significant changes or if something needs to be restored. 

You should also see a general dentist for a cleaning and an examination every 6 months. 

Other Types of General Dentistry Services

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

General dentists offer restorative services, preventive treatments, oral surgery, and cosmetic dentistry:

Restorative Dentistry

During routine dental exams, your dentist searches for cavities and signs of oral diseases. They will recommend an indirect or direct restoration if you have tooth decay.

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 combines up to 54 percent mercury with silver, tin, and copper. This material is commonly used to restore teeth (premolars and molars).
  • Conventional glass Ionomer (CGI) is another tooth-colored restorative material. Glass ionomer is less durable than amalgam or composite. CGI can restore front teeth, including incisors and canines. 
  • Resin-Modified glass Ionomers (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 the mouth based on an individual’s teeth impressions). However, unlike direct restorations, indirect options require at least two dentist appointments.

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

Available Indirect Restoration Treatments

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, including:

  • Dental crowns are tooth-shaped caps that fit over a tooth to restore damaged or missing teeth
  • 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
  • Wisdom tooth removal is one of the most common dental surgeries used to remove third molars
  • Root canals are used to remove infected or inflamed soft tissues from the internal chamber of the tooth
  • Tooth extractions involve removing the tooth from its socket in the bone to prevent further damage.

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.

Available Cosmetic Dentistry 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.

At-home teeth whitening produces nearly identical results to professional whitening. And it costs just a fraction of the price. Read our review of the best teeth whitening kits.


General dentists offer a wide range of treatments and procedures. They also treat patients of all ages.

These dentists provide a variety of services and treatments to promote oral health, including: 

  • Basic, preventive dental care
  • Oral surgery
  • Restorative treatments
  • Cosmetic dentistry

You should see a general dentist regularly to maintain oral health. Ideally, you should see a general dentist twice a year or every 6 months.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  3. Blue Ocean Publishing Group. The Million Dollar Smile, Changing Lives with Cosmetic Dentistry. 2018.
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  5. Zafar et al. “Biomimetic Aspects of Restorative Dentistry Biomaterials.” Biomimetics (Basel, Switzerland), 2020.
  6. Manipal et al. “The importance of dental aesthetics among dental students assessment of knowledge.” Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 2014.
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