What type of dentist do I need to see?

Is there really a difference between an endodontist, an orthodontist, or an oral surgeon? Not sure if you need to see a periodontist, a prosthodontist or a pedodontist?

Most people are familiar with general dentistry, often called family dentistry, which concentrates on diagnosis and treatment of dental problems in both adults and children of all ages. The general dentist deals with what it sounds like. He deals with general issues regarding your teeth, including prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of conditions, disorders and diseases affecting the teeth, gums and maxillofacial (associated with the jaw and face) region of the body. This is the oral professional that deals with most dental problems. They have training and specialize in the techniques to ensure proper oral hygiene, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of most dental and potential gum damage. For many people this is the only kind of dentist they will ever see.

Ideally, dentistry is preventative. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you visit your dentist regularly – at least once every six months. Regular checkups and oral health maintenance prevent the development of serious dental problems.

Types of dentists: an overview of dental specialties

Here’s a quick reference of the various dental specialists and what they do:


If you’ve ever had the misfortune of needing a root canal, you know what an endodontist does! Endodonics deals with diseases and disorders with the inside of the tooth: the pulp, which is made up of nerves, blood vessels and other soft issue. One of the most common procedures these dental professional perform is a root canal, which involves removing the infected pulp from a tooth and sealing it up. An endodontist will work to cure these problems and save your teeth. The endodontist may also be able to save a tooth which has been knocked out of your mouth.

Oral/Maxillofacial Surgeon

An oral surgeon performs oral surgery on the teeth, gums and jaw. Commonly seen for wisdom tooth removals, an oral surgeon is someone who specializes in surgery of the mouth and face. Among the many procedures an oral surgeon performs are removal of oral cancers, reconstructive surgery, tooth removals, repair of birth defects, placement of dental implants, surgery to alleviate TMJ symptoms and repair of facial bone fractures.


Orthodontists specializes in preventing and treating teeth and facial irregularities, jaw alignment and straightening teeth to improve your tooth alignment and bite. Treatment is mostly through the use of braces and retainers. Teeth can be straightened at any age, however the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends children receive an orthodontic evaluation by age seven. No matter what your age, orthodontics can protect your bite (occlusion), and maximize your teeth effectiveness, and well-aligned teeth make oral hygiene easier to maintain. Although common to do so in the early teen years, modern innovations in braces have made teeth straightening popular with adults.


A pedodontist (also known as a pediatric dentist) specializes in children’s dentistry. In addition to general dental training, a pedodontists also have training in child psychology and development, making them well prepared to treat even fearful or difficult children. Since they only deal with baby teeth, preventative care is a focus of the pedodontist’s practice.


Periodontics specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the gum and bone that hold teeth in place. Periodontists are experts at recognizing such gum disorders as gingivitis, an infection of the gums, and the more destructive gum disease known as periodontitis. Some common treatments may include cleaning and scaling teeth to remove harmful substances called plaque and tartar.


Prosthodontists specialize in fixing or replacing teeth. Prosthetic dentistry involves restoring and maintaining oral function, health, comfort and appearance by replacing teeth and gum tissue with artificial substitutes, (usually referred to as dentures or false teeth). They also fit patients with prosthetic devices, such as single or multiple tooth replacement implants, bridges, crowns and veneers and do some reconstructive work.

Finding a great dentist or specialist is a process that can take some time and referrals typically are the most helpful. Whomever you choose should always make you feel comfortable and be experienced in your particular condition. There is a great deal of cross training and continuing education in the dental industry these days, which enables many general dentists to perform most, if not all, dental procedures. However, depending on your particular circumstances they may suggest that you see a specialist. The Dentists’ Office is one of only a few offices in Northern Nevada that actually is a multi-specialty office, meaning they have one or more specialists in the same office as their general dentists. This is much more convenient for patients and eliminates unnecessary travel and paperwork associated with going to multiple offices.

Call your dentist or dental specialist today to schedule a consultation for your specific dental needs.


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