When you think of dentistry, you may imagine your family dental office where you regularly go for teeth cleanings and checkups. But, the profession expands much farther than this and your general dentist is just one speciality in the field. Curious about what other types of dentists there are? You’ve come to the right place.
Here in British Columbia, dentists are regulated by the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia (CDSBC), and different dental specialties must be certified by the CDSBC.
A general dentist is also known as a family dentist and takes care of your oral health on a regular basis. This is the most common type of dentist and the majority of their work revolves around important preventative oral care. This includes regular dental cleanings, dental X-rays, and educating patients about proper at-home oral care. General dentists are also responsible for restorative oral care such as treating tooth decay by replacing it with artificial fillings, repairing cracked, chipped, or missing teeth, and whitening services. They also treat oral issues caused by gum disease and root issues below the gumline. Your general dentist can also help guide you down the path of getting braces, false teeth, mouth guards, and other treatments. Because your general dentist is the health care practitioner you likely see the most, they are also monitoring the health of your mouth, neck, and head so ensure there are no issues.
While General Dentists are capable of treating most conditions, and may even have significant experience providing elements of specialty care, they will very often provide you with a referral to a specific type of dental specialist such as those listed below.
You may know orthodontists as the ones who install braces, but their care extends much farther beyond that. Generally speaking, orthodontists are concerned with righting misaligned teeth, jaw bones, and other supporting facial structures for both cosmetic and functional reasons. This means they work to improve people’s bites by designing custom oral hardware such as braces, clear dental alignment trays, mouthguards, headgear, retainers, and facemasks that correct developmental issues. All of these devices work over time to improve bone structure that may be deformed and teeth that have spacing issues.
In BC, Orthodontists are entitled to designate themselves as a “Certified Specialist in Orthodontics.”
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons focus on the hard and soft tissues found in and around the mouth. These tissues include the gums, cheeks, lips, hard palate, soft palate, tongue, and facial tissues. These surgeons are medically trained in hospitals after their dental schooling and thus perform more invasive surgeries than other dental professionals such as complex tooth extractions, surgical jaw corrections or smoothing as a foundation for false teeth. They also perform reconstructive surgeries, cleft palate or cleft lip surgeries, and occasionally biopsies, cancerous tissue extraction, facial infections, or even sleep apnea treatments. Oral surgeons generally lay the groundwork for future dental work as they take care of the surgical improvements that need to happen to teeth and supporting bones before oral appliances, false teeth, or cosmetic procedures can be done.
In BC, these specialists are entitled to designate themselves as a “Certified Specialist in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.”
Gums are the focus of periodontistry, and periodontists are concerned with preventing, diagnosing, and treating various gum issues. This can include treating extreme gum inflammation and pain, diagnosing and treating extreme gum disease (also known as periodontal disease), installing dental implants, and performing cosmetic skin grafting on gums. Generally speaking, anything that involves extensive work to be done on gums is when a periodontist gets involved. Treating gum disease is a very large part of periodontistry and thus periodontists often advise general dentists on prevention and treatment plans that will work with the lifestyles of patients.
In BC, Periodontists are entitled to designate themselves as a “Certified Specialist in Periodontics.”
As their title suggests, prosthodontists are responsible for providing oral prostheses that replace damaged, decayed, or missing teeth. Oral prostheses are false teeth appliances and include crowns, bridges, dentures, tooth implants, and veneers. These teeth replacements are often both cosmetic and functional as they can greatly improve the ability to chew, bite, and speak effectively and safely. You may have heard the term “smile makeover” which involves a complete overhaul and visual appearance of someone’s smile. Prosthodontists are often responsible for carrying this out for both cosmetic reasons and for cases of traumatic reconstruction. Prosthodontists work closely with dental labs that create oral appliances and false teeth to ensure the customization and quality of the prostheses they work with are a perfect fit for each patient.
In BC, Prosthodontists are entitled to designate themselves as a “Certified Specialist in Prosthodontics.”
The inner part of the tooth, which is protected by the tooth’s hard enamel and inner layer of dentin, is found below the gumline and is known as the pulp. It is soft and made up of sensitive living tissue and is the part of the tooth that endodontists focus on. The pulp of the tooth can become damaged, inflamed, or rotten through injury, trauma, or decay and thus needs to be treated or removed. If it can be treated and preserved, this keeps the tooth alive in the patient’s mouth. But if it cannot be preserved, the required treatment is known as a root canal, which is probably the most common procedure performed by endodontists in their profession.
In BC, Endodontists are entitled to designate themselves as a “Certified Specialist in Endodontics.”
Other Dental Specialists
There are three other dental specialties recognized by the CDSBC. These are:
- Certified Specialist in Oral Pathology
- Certified Specialist in Oral Radiology
- Certified Specialist in Pediatric Dentistry
Find a dentist near you that specializes in your specific needs with 123Dentist’s list of dental offices in the lower mainland.