What Is Cosmetic Dentistry? »
Specializing in services like aligners, whitening and reshaping, cosmetic dentists are dedicated to the treatment of esthetic dental issues. Find out more about services they off…
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From Business: If you are suffering from a toothache or have noticed signs of tooth problems in your mouth, it’s best to get it checked by an experienced dentist immediately. At E…
Specializing in services like aligners, whitening and reshaping, cosmetic dentists are dedicated to the treatment of esthetic dental issues. Find out more about services they off…
Dental implants are posts that dentists insert into or on the jaw to mount a replacement tooth or bridge. Find out more about how …
Contacting a pediatric dentist is the first step to protecting your child's smile. Discover more about pediatric dentistry and at-…
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Dentists are medical professionals who specialize in providing oral care. Though most of dentists' work involves cleaning and maintaining teeth, their scope extends to addressing a number of oral conditions. Most dentists spend their careers in private practice, running an office either on their own or with colleagues. Others opt for working in the public health sector or training future dentists at a dental college.
Whereas doctors attend a four-year medical school, dental school specifically trains graduates in the art of oral care. Both medical and dental schools have the same kind of general courses, with students learning about human anatomy and even biochemistry. However, shortly into school, would-be dentists take on more specialized workloads, including surgical procedures and oral biology. Dentists must stay up to date with all the latest dental trends, including new surgical techniques and oral care research.
Dentists are also responsible for the other body parts tied directly to your teeth and gums. The tongue, jaw bone and muscles in the head and neck all play a vital role things like chewing and speaking, and dentists must be able to diagnose lumps, swelling, ulcerations and other abnormalities. Beyond those tasks, dentists also strive to teach patients about the importance of oral health, namely proper brushing and flossing techniques and why annual or semi-annual dentist appointments are so vital.
The human mouth is a complex biological system, and no two individuals have the same oral care needs. Here are some of the more common dentists people seek out to improve their oral health:
These dentists generally serve as the primary provider of dental care. If you need your teeth cleaned, crowns and bridges placed or any number of cosmetic procedures, book an appointment with a general dentist. Though not as common, these dentists will also provide more specialized services, including some forms of oral surgery - chief among them root canals and restorative care - fitting patients with a mouthguard and counseling people on how to stop smoking and what constitutes proper nutrition.
To become an endodontist means undergoing an additional two years of training beyond dental school. As a result, these specialized dentists perform more specific procedures beyond general teeth cleaning and repair work. While a dentist may perform a handful of root canal treatments in a week, an endodontist may end up working on 20 or more in the same timespan. Your average endodontist also repairs teeth damaged by trauma and performs endodontic retreatments, which is repeat root canal procedure. Their added training also means that the endodontist is much more adept at utilizing complex dental equipment - especially ultrasonic instruments or microscopes. Most of that equipment is used to improve the health of teeth that are affected by disease and even congenital deformities.
Proper oral care starts when you're young, and that's why pediatric dentists are so important. These dentists treat people under the age of 13, though there are exceptions based on a child's unique dental background. Pediatric dentists face unique challenges, because they must treat newly teething babies and children losing their primary teeth.
Though cleanings are an integral part of their job, pediatric dentists are mostly concerned with planning ahead. That means working to ensure the child has straight teeth and correcting an improper bite. However, they also help address more child-specific conditions of thumb sucking and an over-reliance on pacifiers. As a result, pediatric dentists usually require an additional two-year residency working with infants and children.
Pathology refers to the study of disease, specifically as it presents in tissue. Oral pathologists, then, are responsible for studying the diseases that affect the tissue of the mouth and other surrounding muscle groups. These experts are considered to be true specialists, having focused their work on very niche areas of both dentistry and pathology. Though oral pathology is rather specialized, it's a vital component of the oral health industry. By analyzing tissue taken from biopsies, oral pathologists can help diagnose and eventually treat a number of oral diseases, including leukoplakia, cementoma and squamous cell carcinoma, among others.
Similar to the endodontist, periodontists receive several additional years of training beyond dental school. However, whereas endodontists study advanced treatments, periodontists generally have a very specific field of interest. Your average periodontist focuses less on cleanings and more on diagnosing and treating gingivitis, periodontitis, which is an untreated form of the aforementioned ailment, and other periodontal diseases. Periodontists treat patients with more complicated oral care backgrounds, those people who require root planing - where dentists clean any infected surfaces - and root debridement, or the removal of dead tissue. Periodontists are especially concerned with proper gum health, including painful recession and teeth alignment.
Most of the aforementioned dentists are concerned with the health and well-being of a patient's teeth. While that is important to cosmetic dentists, they specialize in a number of different treatments meant to enhance the look or aesthetic of your teeth. To begin the average appointment, cosmetic dentists will examine your teeth for any imperfections or irregularities, and then suggest ways to make your teeth more white or properly aligned. The most popular such treatments are bleaching - where special chemicals are used to whiten your teeth - placing veneers or caps to alter the appearance of teeth, and bonding, where dentists fill unappealing gaps with structural replacement material.
Orthodontists are responsible for treating most dental irregularities, which includes everything from misaligned jaws - like an under or overbite - to overcrowding teeth and even certain cosmetic issues. Following dental school, the would-be orthodontist then has another three years of schooling, most of which is clinical experience in an orthodontic residency program. To properly diagnose and treat most dentofacial issues, the orthodontist relies on a collection of corrective gear. That includes braces, retainers and various facemask configurations. Though orthodontists work with people of all ages, the bulk of patients are young children and teens.
Similar to the field of orthodontics, the average prosthodontist receives an additional three years of training following dental school. And though prosthodontics is something of a cosmetic field like orthodontics, it's primarily concerned with replacing missing teeth. Prosthodontists have a number of teeth-replacing procedures to implement, including filling veneers, onlays and inlays, bridges, crowns and complete or partial dentures. Beyond their work in implant dentistry, these experts treat a number of other mouth-related ailments, namely snoring, post-cancer jaw reconstruction, traumatic injuries and pain related to lock jaw and other temporomandibular joint disorders.
Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist
Similar to endodontists, these specialists - one of nine such unique fields recognized by the American Dental Association - utilize machinery to treat and diagnose patients. Specifically, these dentists make use of radiographic imaging to treat those diseases and ailments that impact the teeth, mouth and the maxillofacial region, which consists of the face and jaw. While X-rays are a popular option, OMRs also rely on plain and computed tomography, MRIs, ultrasounds and other forms of digital imaging. OMRs are among the first adaptors of new technology, using innovations in the field of imaging to find increasingly effective ways at understanding the impact of oral disease and what that means to patients.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Your primary dentist may refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon if you experience facial pain, or if he or she suspects you have some variety of oral cancer. OMSs are also your primary source when planning most oral surgeries, like tooth extractions, cyst repairs and removals, and dental implants. However, an OMS can also treat a number of other ailments and diseases related to the maxillofacial region. For instance, malformations in your facial bones can cause sleep apnea, and an OMS can perform corrective surgery that removes or shapes bone. Many of these experts are also involved with more cosmetic procedures, performing or assisting with facial implants and rhinoplasty, in which the nose bone is modified.
Dental Public Health Clinics
These clinics are available in most cities across the U.S., and they're meant to offer affordable health care to many low-income families and individuals. Though it differs depending on the specific clinic, the average clinic offers only the most essential oral care services, including X-rays, teeth cleaning, basic root canals and repairs, and tooth extractions. The fees an individual pays depend on a number of different factors, and most clinics have a sliding-fee that is determined equally by income and family size.
There are several different kinds of dentists, each one with his or her own specialty. However, there are a core group of ailments all dentists treat. Conditions include:
Tooth Decay: When your teeth fall out or begin to disintegrate in your mouth, improper brushing is often to blame. Certain infections also cause tooth loss or decay. One of the most affective ways to prevent tooth decay is with regular brushing and flossing right at home.
Bad Breath: As your teeth fall out or you don't brush properly, your gums and teeth begin to break down and cause foul odors. Other causes of bad breath include gum disease and oral infections. As with tooth decay, brushing and flossing are vital, as is regular tongue scraping and the use of mouthwash.
Teeth Sensitivity: Some people are born with teeth that are naturally sensitive to cold. A lack of brushing can also comprise your teeth's natural protection. The best method to help protect otherwise sensitive teeth is to use specialized toothpaste geared toward people with worn or damaged teeth.
Dry Mouth: Certain medications will cause your salivary glands to stop producing spit. This in turn can harm the structure of your teeth and gums. There are several at-home measures you can take to combat dry mouth. These include regular hydration, chewing sugar-free gum, which also hydrates your mouth, and avoiding mouthwash with alcohol in it, which dries out your entire mouth.
Teeth Grinding: For many people, grinding their teeth - also known as bruxism - is a subconscious behavior, usually the result of stress. It can eventually damage your teeth. The only way to treat your grinding habit is to meet with an endodontist, who will fit you with with a bite plate to mitigate the damage to your teeth.
Mouth Sores: Also called canker sores, these painful bumps are the result of irritation to the soft tissue of your mouth. These sores can make brushing almost impossible. There are a number of different causes for sores, including anemia or a vitamin B-12 deficiency. As a result, your primary physician will have to examine the bump, find its root cause and then help develop a specific treatment plan, including the use of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation or antimicrobial mouthwash.
Discoloration: Yellow teeth are the result of a number of bad habits, mainly smoking, drinking too much coffee and improper nutrition. Proper brushing can usually prevent discolored teeth before they happen. However, if your teeth become worse, many dentists will treat with a whitening procedure.
Proper oral care begins at home. The following are a few preventative measures you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy. They just may reduce your time spent in your dentist's chair.
Remember Your Angles
When brushing your teeth, always place the brush at a 45-degree angle. That way, you're able to hit every surface of each tooth.
Don't Forget the Tongue
Within your mouth, your tongue is the largest source of bacteria. Be sure to brush it front to back and don't forget the sides.
Brushing alone isn't enough to keep your mouth healthy, and that's why flossing is so important. Each time you floss, be sure to have at least 18 inches of floss available, which is what you should go through if you use proper technique. For optimal control, hold the floss between your thumbs and forefingers.
Watch What You Eat
Sugar, alcohol and coffee all contain phosphorus. While some can prove beneficial, too much of this chemical can eat away at your teeth and gums.
Keep in Mind the Mouthwash
Though not a requirement, mouthwash can be helpful if used to supplement proper brushing and flossing. Most mouthwash brands contain chlorine dioxide, a chemical that targets the majority of oral bacterial strains. However, don't overuse mouthwash, as it can cause a number of ailments.
Proper oral care is an integral component of your greater well-being, which highlights why having the right dentist is of the utmost importance. Consider the following as you make an effort to find a dentist who will fit your unique medical history:
Find a Recommendation
It's important to use a dentist whom you feel comfortable with. Because that's difficult to achieve by simply choosing names out of a phone book, you should always seek out a recommendation. Whether it's a friend, family member or co-worker, this individual can offer intimate details about a dentist's demeanor, operating style and approach to patient care. Be sure to always ask plenty of questions.
Vet Your Dentist
Once you get a recommendation from a friend, don't simply book your first cleaning right away. Instead, meet with any prospective dentists to conduct a series of pretreatment interview. During this session, you can ask them about what treatments they perform most often, procedures they're not as familiar with, what accreditation they have or any organizations they belong to and how their offices handles insurance and payments. Just be aware that booking this time can be difficult based on a dentist's schedule.
Consider Accessibility and Other Factors
Perhaps you've met a dentist with whom you feel comfortable. Not only that, but this dentist's payment options are suitable for your finances. However, don't be so quick to make a final decision, as other factors may influence your choice. Is the dentist's office nearby, or do you have to drive out of your way? Is the office open at a time that will fit the rest of your schedule? How much flexibility will the dentist's staff offer in booking appointments? Though seemingly trivial, these factors are nonetheless important.
Check With Your State Board
One of the last things you should do before coming to a decision is to check with your state's dental board. Dentists must abide by different rules and regulations depending on where they practice, and the state board can outline what requirements your candidate must meet. These organizations can also offer information about any discrepancies in the dentist's background and if he or she has faced any disciplinary actions.
As with other forms of health care, insurance is a great way to both reduce associated costs and ensure you and your dependents receive the best care possible. However, you don't want to simply buy the first such plan you see. Here are some factors to consider when shopping for dental insurance:
Pick Your Plan
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all dental insurance plan. Instead, most people purchase three main varieties, usually through their employers. An indemnity or fee-for-service plan is just as it sounds and means you'll have to pay for annual deductibles and co-insurance payments out of pocket. A preferred provider organization is less costly, and you choose from a network of dentists. However, PPOs have some limitations and accompanying deductibles. Similarly, a dental health maintenance organization plan limits you to just a few choices of dentists, and one doctor handles all of your oral care needs. However, these HMO are usually much less costly.
Examine the Networks
As noted, PPO plans and dental HMOs work with only a select number of doctors. While that usually means fewer costs compared to other insurance plans or payment options, it also means you don't have quite as much say in the dentist who can treat you. That doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, especially if you know who is in the network. Before purchasing the plan, you'll receive a list of dentists in each network. Do research on each doctor - just as you would when picking a dentist otherwise. From there, you can then pick a plan with doctors who meet your standards and requirements.
Consider Your Coverage
Sometimes, it's not just the doctor that you want to consider. For many people, even the plans with the best doctors are deemed a bad choice. The reason? The coverage is less-than-stellar. When picking a plan, you need to look at just how much you'll pay for each and every service. For instance, some plans won't cover your fillings or X-rays, while others may charge more or less for a crown or tooth extraction. Knowing just what you'll be responsible for is important, as you don't want to be caught off-guard by unforeseen charges. Depending on your employer, a human resources specialist can walk you through specific coverage options.
Make Your Plan Work for You
It's a sad fact that the dentist you want most might not be covered by the plan you've purchased. However, that doesn't mean that you have to look for dental services elsewhere. If you're truly comfortable with a dentist and you feel he or she can be an ally in your ongoing oral care regimen, then consider signing a plan to just keep that dentist available. That means potentially deal with costs and other insurance-related factors that you might have wanted to. If need be, you might be able to work with the dentist's office to address some of the plan-specific concerns.