Dentist Chat Healthy Road

What do different types of Dentists Do?

What do Oral Pathologists, Periodontists, Prosthodontists and Endodontist have in common? Yep that’s right, they’re all dental professions but can you tell us what they do? We thought we would have a look at all the different types and explain why and when you should go visit each of them

different types of dentists

Profession: General Dentist (DDS/DMD)

Comparable to a general Doctor, a general Dentist is the type of Dentist you will likely see the most. They will take care of patients of all ages and will do the following

Profession: Pedodontist / Pediatric dentist

A Pedodontist is essentially the general dentist for children and young adults. They will cover very similar roles as a General dentist but also have specialized further training to deal with young patients and their needs

Main roles for General & Pedodontists:

  • Preventative & maintaining work,
  • Cleaning Teeth
  • Crowns and bridges, Dentures, Sealants, Veneers
  • Teeth Whitening & Cosmetic procedures
  • Gum Care, Treatment of nerve & pulp issues, Root canal therapy  Gum disease treatment
  • Fluoride treatments
  • Fillings
  • Dental implants
  • Extractions
  • Nightguards & Mouthguards
  • Home care instruction and Nutrition counseling
  • Oral surgery
  • Tobacco cessation

Quick Fact: DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery and DMD stands for Doctor of Dental Medicine but they both study the same curriculum and exams

When you should see them?

A general dentist should be your first point of contact for all dental needs as they can refer you to specialist if it’s needed. The frequency of visits depends on age & dental situation but it is recommended that children should visit their dentist twice a year as their their teeth decay faster, whilst for adults it varies between annually and biannually on the individual

Patient being examined by dentist

Profession: Orthodontist

An Orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in Jaw & Teeth alignment and correcting bites by using tools such as braces & retainers to straighten them out. Their work will allow a better functioning mouth and will make teeth look better

Smiling Kid with braces

Main roles:

  • Locating current and future problems with patients teeth & jaws
  • Using dental devices such as retainers and braces to correct any problems
  • Tailored treatment plans for each patient

When you should see them?

You will need to see one if your teeth aren’t aligned or if you have problems with your bite. YOur general dentist will refer if you need to go.

Profession: Periodontist

These are dentists who specialize in all the parts that are around your teeth, think gum tissue and bone. Although your regular dentist will generally deal with early prevention of gum disease, a Periodontist will be needed for more serious problems and prevention.

Main roles:

  • Diagnosing problems with Patient’s Gum tissue and oral bones
  • Treatment of problems such as gum disease and further prevention

When you should see them?

The first place you should start is your regular dentist who will refer you to them if it is needed

healthy teeth and gums

Profession: Endodontist / Root canal specialists

All dentists will have a training for dealing with endodontic therapy however endodontists will have had further specialised training. These are dentists who deal with issues of the inner soft tissues known as ‘Pulp’ or the nerve of the tooth, that a normal dentist is unable to do. (see below)

Main roles:

  • Diagnosing problems with the tooth nerves or pulp
  • Root Canal therapy & prevention of further damage

For a more in detail explanation we recommend checking out What is an Endodontist

When you should see them?

Again we recommended being referred by your regular dentist but essentially you will need root canal therapy when tooth decay reaches the nerve region (past the Enamel & Dentine layer).

Tooth part diagram

Profession: Oral Pathologists

These are specialist Dentists who have further studied in a Oral Pathology Training Program. They work with a range of dental & medical professions including Head and Neck Surgeons, Infectious Disease Specialists, Internists Dermatologists (Info sourced from American academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology).

Main role:

  • Diagnosis of biopsy specimens removed oral areas to allow identification and treatment of oral diseases

When you should see them?

As mentioned above, Oral pathologists work with many dental & medical professions and therefore would be referred by them as needed. For more in depth info about the role of oral pathologists see here

Profession: Prosthodontists

This type of dentists specialize in the restoring and replacing of teeth for patients. They have additional post dental school training and will improve the functionality and aesthetics of your smile.

Perfect smile after dental work

Main roles (adapted from job-descriptions.careerplanner.com) :

  • Improving functionality of teeth which may be identified through Jaw & facial pain.
  • Replacement and repair of teeth with Veneers, Dentures, Crowns & Bridges and removable fixtures
  • Change tooth shape or close gaps in teeth
  • Teeth whitening
  • Work with general dentists and other dental professionals to find solutions to patients’ dental needs

When you should see them?

Similar to Endodontists in that General Dentists will be able to perform some of their minor tasks, however for major work they will be needed and can be recommended by Dentists. For work that doesn’t involve the functionality of teeth it may be recommended to see a cosmetic dentist.

Conclusion

We hope we’ve helped you better understand each dental role should you need to visit them in the future. There’s a couple other Dental professions that can be found at the ADA’s Speciality website but we’ve tried to give a good base of roles. We will also be writing a blog on other Dental professions such as Hygienists, Dental assistants, Lab technicians in the near future
If you have any questions or roles that we’ve missed (there’s enough of them!) just drop us a line in the comment section below.

28 Comments

  • I really appreciate this information on how to know which dentist does what. With all the different big names, its hard to know who you actually need to go see. I didn’t realize that there were general dentists that did all the basic work, and then more specialized dentists for more complex dental work. Thanks for the information!

    • Our pleasure June and thanks for taking the time to read the article. It is amazing to see the amount of specialisation in the field, and there are quite a few dental professions that we didn’t include! If you need us to cover any other dental areas we’d be happy to 😀

  • Thanks for explaining the various specialties in the field of dentistry. I’ve only visited an orthodontist and general dentist before. I was surprised to see how many more specialties there are than just those two!

    • It is amazing, there are lots of specialities. Don’t forget though, your general dentist is always a great place to start and will recommend other dentists as needed.

  • I thought that the information for what periodontists do is really interesting. It helps having a better understanding of what they do compared to different types of dentists. I’ve been having some excessive gum bleeding, so it seems like going to them to diagnose whatever gum problems I may have would be best according to this article. Thanks for posting!

    • Hi Deanna and thanks for replying to the blog. Just to be clear, we would recommend seeing your general dentist first, who will be able to refer you to a specialist if needed. It might well save a trip :)

  • I have been very confused as to what to look for in my new home town. I really like the way this article describes the difference between all types of dentistry. I now know that I should be looking for a pediatric dentist right now. Thanks for sharing Ben!

  • Thanks for pointing out the nuances here. There are so many names for different specializations of dentists. I’ve been overgeneralizing them for too long now, using anything that ends with “-dontist” interchangeably. I’m glad to be corrected.

  • Thank you for explaining these different types of dentists! My daughter is six and I wasn’t sure if I needed to take her to a pediatric dentist or pedodontist rather than the general dentist we’ve been going to. It sounds like it could be a good idea to see a specialist in children’s teeth, so I’ll ask my dentist if he thinks it’s I should.

    • That’s a great idea, the key is to do whatever works for your daughter, if she’s comfortable visiting a general dentist then that’s great :) Thanks for commenting and let us know if you have any dental questions.

  • Thanks for your post. I do have a better understanding of the different roles of a dentist. However, will a general dentist be able to take care of most of the problems I have with my teeth. If I have trouble with my gums I won’t necessarily have to go to a periodontist, right?

    • Yes that’s right, your regular dentist will only recommend a specialist if the problem requires it, otherwise they will treat you themselves.

  • I didn’t realize until reading this post that there were so many different types of dentists that varied so widely in their services. It is interesting that you pointed out that there are dentists that also specialize in different age groups and their common problems. I imagine that it would be the best of both worlds to find a dentist that knew many different common procedures, as well as treating all different age groups. Thanks for sharing this!

    • We agree and this is why we recommend starting with a general dentist as they will have a wide knowledge base and be able to recommend the right actions to take

  • I often hear about different kinds of dentists and I have often wondered what they each do, so I really appreciate this reference. It is interesting how you pointed out that periodontists are those that specialize in gum tissue and bone. My daughter has been complaining that her gums are hurting her the past few days so we might need to go see a periodontist. Thanks for sharing this!

  • There’s a lot of different kinds of dentists and stuff, it’s hard to know what to go to. I’ll make sure I go to a regular dentist before considering a periodontist. I’ll make sure I write down this stuff for my future reference. Thanks for the help!

  • There’s so many different names for the different kinds of doctors that focus on the mouth. I don’t think that I’ve ever really learned what a periodontist focuses on! I think it’s pretty interesting that they can diagnose and treat problems with the patient’s gum tissue. Thanks for sharing!

  • I need to get help specifically about my inflamed gums, but I’m not sure about the type of dentist I should go to. Reading about how these different types of dentists fulfill these different roles in dentistry was really helpful. Before reading this, I thought that a general dentist would be most likely to help me, but now I think that going to a periodontist would be best since they’re supposed to treat bum disease. Thanks for the information!

    • Thanks Judy. Do make sure to consult your regular dentist before booking an appointment with a different type of dentist:)

  • My dad is looking to get dental implants. After reading your article, it is better for him to go to the pedodontist then? I never knew that a general dentist can take care of things like that and thought he would have to go to someone more specialized like a periodontist!

  • That’s really interesting that, out of all of the dental professions, general dentistry has the most roles in oral care. I guess that it goes to show that I just don’t know that much about general dentistry. I appreciate the list though, cause it will definitely help me to know which type of dentist I will need to see if I ever have any oral health issues. Thanks for the info!

    • No problem Theodore, we’re not necessarily saying that general dentists have the most roles but they are certainly the best place to start if you have a dental issue 😀

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