A Guide to Dental Professions
Dentistry is just one branch of medicine, but even on its own, it is a robust field. Everyone who has had a dental check-up is familiar with the job of a dentist, dental assistants, and hygienists. But all of these positions become even more specialized. Here is a list of descriptions of the different dental professions, and why you might need to set up an appointment with or be referred to one.
A licensed dental professional who is registered with a dental association. When you set up your dental cleaning twice a year, it is a dental hygienist that takes care of you. In our office, we have two registered dental hygienists; Carey and Vanessa. These two top-notch hygienists do more than just clean teeth. They also review your oral health history, perform screenings for oral health conditions, take x-rays, apply preventative materials, and most importantly, educate our patients on how to maintain optimal oral health.
It’s the dental assistant’s job to help the dentist in a variety of different ways. They are the ones who are in the room with the dentist when you are scheduled for a procedure like getting a filling or even an implant. At our practice, we currently have two certified dental assistants; Chentel and Nicole. These are the people that do a fantastic job making sure the dentist is on top of things. They develop x-rays, take impressions, take care of the dental instruments, help patients feel comfortable, and do their part in communicating with patients about oral care and instructions for care after procedures.
Dental Lab Technician
A dental technician does the work behind the scenes. When a dental clinician provides a dental technician with an impression and prescriptions, the dental technician constructs the custom made dental appliance. So, when we send off an impression to the lab, it’s a dental technician that makes the crown, veneer, or implant that becomes a permanent dental appliance. At Mann Family Dental, we have an on-site lab and also CEREC, which means we can create permanent dental appliances in one appointment. But there are still cases when we send out to a dental laboratory to have something built.
General Dentist (DDS or DMD)
DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery, and DMD stands for Doctor of Dental Medicine. Both of these titles and degrees are essentially the same thing. A general dentist specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the mouth. Your dentist is the equivalent of your primary care physician but in regards to your mouth instead of your body. Even if you have a problem that requires a specialist, you’ll see your dentist first, and they will refer you where you need to go.
An endodontist specializes in the treatment of conditions of the dental pulp. The most common procedure an endodontist performs is root canal therapy. So, if you have decay or an infection that has affected the dental pulp in your teeth, your dentist may refer you to an endodontist.
An orthodontist specializes in jaw alignment and positioning of your teeth. If you had braces as a teenager, you most definitely remember your monthly appointments at the orthodontist. All those hours in their office, as well as the appliances they prescribed, are what resulted in your perfect teeth and bite.
A periodontist specializes in the supporting structures of the teeth, also known as the gums, but also the bone, cementum, and ligament that exists there. If a patient has severe gum disease or complex medical history, they may be referred to a periodontist.
A cosmetic dentist focuses on aesthetics, rather than the health of your teeth. Of course, they are never going to do anything that is unhealthy for your teeth, but if you had a problem with your teeth’s health, you wouldn’t see them for it. You would go to a cosmetic dentist to get the kind of smile that you see in magazines.
An oral an maxillofacial surgeon focuses on the surgical treatment of diseases and conditions of the mouth. You might be referred to an oral surgeon if you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, if you need your jaw realigned, or you need reconstructive surgery after an injury.