Your family dentist is your best resource for most of your dental care. In fact, many people almost never see any dentist other than their family dentist. In some cases, however, you might be occasionally referred to a dental specialist. These specialists have extra education and expertise in one specific niche of dentistry; it’s similar to when your general practitioner refers you to a dermatologist for a skin condition or a cardiologist for a heart problem. Here are some of the dental specialists who might one day make up your dental care team.
A periodontist specializes in gum care. While your hygienist and your dentist will handle some gum problems, like gingivitis, a periodontist might be appropriate if you have extensive bone loss or need surgical treatment of your gums. A few patients see a periodontist routinely, but most just have the one problem addressed and then return to their family dentist to have routine cleanings.
An endodontist performs root canal and root canal surgery. While a general dentist can also perform root canals, an endodontist often has specialized equipment that allows them to access calcified canals or handle other challenges. An endodontist is also the dental specialist you’d see if you needed surgery at the tip of your root; that procedure is called an apicoectomy. After a root canal or apicoectomy, you would return to your family dentist for the final restoration of the tooth.
An orthodontist is the dental specialist who straightens teeth. They can apply braces and other types of appliances. Some family dentists do some orthodontic work, but complex cases generally require the expertise of an orthodontist. While having orthodontic work done, you’ll still need to see your general dentist for cleanings, fillings, and any other treatment required.
If you have questions about your dental health or the need for a dental specialist, don’t hesitate to ask.