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There are 9 board-certified dental specialties. Although, only six specialists provide individual patient dental care. Depending on needs, you'll either visit a periodontist, prosthodontist, endodontist, oral surgeon, orthodontist, or pediatric dentist.
Family dentists and general dentists offer many of the same services as dental specialists but do not focus on just one area of dentistry. Instead, they offer services in all fields of dentistry, including restorative, cosmetic, and pediatric dental treatments.
Periodontal disease is the most severe form of gum disease. Gingivitis, on the other hand, is the mildest form of gum disease.
If you develop one of these diseases, your dentist will probably recommend visiting a periodontist for more intensive treatment. Periodontics focuses on the treatment of gum disease in people of all ages.
Periodontists also specialize in dental implant procedures, which are artificial teeth. In particular, when a tooth is lost due to periodontal disease, also referred to as periodontitis, an implant (artificial tooth root) is placed in the patient's jawbone.
Periodontal procedures and treatments include, but are not limited to:
Prosthodontists specialize in restorative dentistry. More specifically, they specialize in tooth replacement procedures and the placement of dental restorations, such as implants, crowns, dentures, veneers, and bridges.
Common reasons patients need restorations or tooth replacements are due to tooth loss from severe tooth decay. Damaged teeth, cracked teeth, and discolored teeth are also candidates for dental restorations.
Prosthodontic procedures include, but are not limited to:
Oral and maxillofacial surgery focuses on minor and invasive procedures involving the mouth, face, and jaw. "Maxillofacial” refers to the face and jaw, while “oral” refers to the mouth.
Oral surgeons either have their own private practice, work at a local dentist's office, or work at a hospital full-time.
Common oral and maxillofacial procedures include, but are not limited to:
Endodontists treat oral health issues related to the dental pulp, which contains the tissues, blood vessels, and nerves surrounding teeth roots. They are also referred to as “root canal specialists” because they perform 25 root canals per week, on average.
During root canal treatment, these dental specialists remove the infected dental pulp in the roots of teeth. Then they restore the teeth with dental crowns. General dentists also perform root canals, but not as often as endodontists do.
Common endodontic treatment options include, but are not limited to:
Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on treating misaligned teeth, crooked teeth, and jaw misalignment (malocclusion) issues. Orthodontists specialize in fixing bite issues, such as an overbite, underbite, or open bite, among others.
The most common orthodontic treatment is braces, typically for children and adolescents who have newly erupted permanent teeth. Clear aligners, also called invisible aligners, are also becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.
Conventional orthodontic treatments include, but are not limited to:
Pediatric dentists are similar to general dentists because they offer a wide range of dental services and treatment options. However, pediatric dentists specialize in treating babies, children, and adolescents, rather than adults. They also offer specialized treatment for sick or disabled children.
So, after a patient turns 18 years old, they will no longer receive treatment from a pediatric dentist. Instead, a family dentist or general dentist will begin treating them.
Common pediatric dental treatments and procedures include, but are not limited to: