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Referred to a Dental Specialist? What You Need to Know

As dentists, we handle a majority of your dental procedures. But sometimes, it is necessary to refer you to a dental specialist. A dental specialist is a dentist who has earned additional certifications that allow them to perform more specialized and complicated procedures. Like if you visit a primary care physician for problems with your ear, they may refer you to an ENT. Remember that there is no need to worry if you are directed to a specialist — they are here to help! Here are the five most common dental specialists and what they do. 


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A Pedodontist specializes in children and adults with intellectual disabilities. A procedure that might be a breeze for an adult can be scary and complicated for a young child or a person with special needs. This is where Pedodontists step in and take over for a regular dentist. If your loved one with special needs requires intense dental work and needs to be sedated, your dentist will likely refer you to a Pedodontist.


Your dentist will likely refer you to a Periodontist if you have gum disease, or gingivitis, that has progressed. Gingivitis can progress to Periodontal disease if not treated properly. Your dentist may refer you to a Periodontist if your gums have reached this stage. A periodontist will perform deep cleanings necessary for those with advanced gum disease. In some cases, you’ll only need to see the Periodontist once or twice, but with more advanced cases, you’ll need a visit twice a year. 


Endodontists specialize in root canals. A root canal is needed if a cavity is left untreated, and the tooth root is affected by the decay. Note that not all root canals need to be treated by endodontists; some dentists will handle root canals. However, they may refer you to an Endodontist if they have reason to believe it will be too complicated for their skillset or challenging to access. 

Oral Surgeon 

Oral surgeons are responsible for performing extractions. Your dentist may perform extractions on his or her patients, but some refer extractions to an oral surgeon. It just depends on the level of experience of that particular dentist. If you’ve had your wisdom teeth removed, you’ve likely seen an oral surgeon. 


If you weren’t familiar with any of the dental specialists we’ve talked about so far, you probably have at least heard of orthodontists. An orthodontist is responsible for straightening their patient’s teeth over time, usually with braces. Clear aligners have become more popular, and we can help with those. But some cases of teeth straightening requires unique work or cannot be corrected with aligners. 

While an Orthodontist will take care of braces, you’ll still need to see your dentist for teeth check-ups and cleanings regularly. 

Questions about a specialist to whom you’ve been referred? Contact the Carolina Family Dentistry team