A general dentist has completed a four-year undergraduate program and a four-year dental school to receive a Doctor of Dental Surgery or a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree.
After dental school, most dentists begin practicing; however, some choose to pursue a postgraduate degree in a specialty. The ADA recognizes nine specialty fields of dentistry:
- Dental Public Health
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
- Pediatric Dentistry
Your general dentist may also possess a specialty degree. If you have preexisting conditions, a predisposition to certain dental conditions, or children, you may want to choose a dentist with specialty training in your particular area of need.
What Services Can I Expect from my General Dentist?
First and foremost, your general dentist will provide preventative dentistry; he or she will recommend that you visit twice yearly for checkups, cleanings, and x-rays to ensure that your mouth remains healthy. In addition to biennial checkups, you can visit your dentist throughout the year if you notice a new issue with your mouth, or if you have a condition that requires more frequent monitoring. If a problem crops up in between dental visits, you can visit your dentist for restorative dentistry, during which he or she will treat the problem or refer you to a specialist for treatment.
General dentists can provide a number of services without requiring a specialist. A handful of these services include procedures to repair tooth decay, tooth or mouth trauma, or disease within the mouth. Your dentist may also provide cosmetic services such as teeth whitening. General dentists may also offer cosmetic dentistry. Often, cosmetic services provided by your dentist may also have preventative or restorative qualities; if your dentist creates a filling for a cracked or chipped tooth, which will improve both the function and appearance of your teeth.
Why Do I Need to See a General Dentist?
Many people believe that they only need to visit the dentist when they encounter a problem with their teeth or mouth. However, seeing your dentist twice yearly can provide benefits that don’t end with your oral health; often, your dentist will be able to identify warning signs before they become permanent issues. General dentists offer cancer screenings, x-rays, and routine maintenance that can keep the rest of your body just as healthy as your mouth.