If you don’t understand the different dental specialties and what they do best, you are not alone. What is more concerning is that many people do not really know their dentist’s credentials before committing to complex treatments like dental implants or cosmetic work. Many proceed with specialty type treatments with their general dentist with assumptions that their dentist is a surgeon or specializes in root canals or is an expert in orthodontics! Remember, just because they do such procedures does not mean they are the experts in it. A friend of mine was convinced that his dentist is an oral surgeon because his degree was ‘DDS’ which stands for doctor of dental surgery! Just for clarity, DDS does not imply your dentist is a surgeon. It just means he or she graduated from dental school.
So I’ll start by introducing you to an important specialists: prosthodontists. There are two types of restorative dentists: general dentists and prosthodontists. Why should you know about prosthodontists? Because if you are in need of remarkable cosmetic dentistry, complex dental treatments, and dental implant restorations, then you may want to talk to a prosthodontist (just to help you say it- lets break it down to pros-thodon-tist). About 5% of general dentists have extensive training and experience in such complex treatments and can deliver equally great results.
A prosthodontist has received three additional years of postdoctoral training in dentistry gaining advanced skills in both cosmetic and restorative procedures. In patients with multi-disciplinary needs (e.g. those who need crowns, implants, root canal treatment, and gum surgery), a prosthodontist will act as both the restorative dentist and the coordinator of the overall treatment and other team dentists. They often work with an oral surgeon for teeth extraction, bone grafting, and dental implant placement. They collaborate with endodontists for root canal procedures. They team up with periodontists to manage gum disease and related conditions. And they work with orthodontists for teeth alignment. This team approach is the key to achieving predictable and long term oral health for patients.