Having a problem that affects our oral health is something that can happen to us at any time and when it arrives, it is normal to think that any nearby dentists can give us a solution. However, as in other areas of medicine, dental specialties also exist and are necessary for the treatment of specific conditions.
Although a general dentist is widely trained to diagnose, treat or prevent the appearance of dental pathologies that are affecting the patient’s oral health, he or she will be able to do little or nothing in any case that requires the intervention of a specialist in dental implantology.
In this sense, in this article we will teach you to know exactly what each of the most common dental specialties covers, with the aim of making it clear to you what type of professional you can turn to in a given situation.
What are the main dental specialties that exist?
As we have mentioned on other occasions, dentistry is one of the areas of medicine that has been most enriched by technological advancement. Today, several of its specialties offer countless innovative and much less invasive treatments in which many cases seem to require a sub-specialty. Even so, according to the nature of the dental treatment required, the most common dental specialties are classified as:
- General odontology
- Pediatric dentistry
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology
Depending on each country, these may be named or classified in different ways. Likewise, it must also be considered that there are other types of spatiality’s that are a little more specific, such as forensic odontology, which covers other types of functions unrelated to oral health.
On the other hand, we could also consider other more recent “specialties” such as aesthetic dentistry, which has gained great receptivity in recent years thanks to its immediate effect treatments.
Now, it is likely that a good dental clinic will have all types of specialists and that they will be responsible for referring you to the appropriate professional for your type of need. However, it does not always happen, so it does not hurt to be clear about the functions of each dental specialty.
1. General dentistry
One of the most common types of dentistry and the one that provides the fundamental knowledge base from which the other specialties start. They focus on the application of basic routine treatments in order to take care of dental health (cleanings, dental cavities, restorations, etc.). They also act as a preventive part to avoid the appearance or complication of other dental pathologies.
2. Pediatric dentistry
Also known as pediatric dentistry, like general dentistry, it specializes in oral health care and preventive treatment of oral diseases, but in this case of children, adolescents and even newborns. They have specific knowledge to treat baby or primary teeth, as well as to detect problems or anomalies in them that could later affect the permanent teeth.
An endodontic specialist treats all conditions related to the dental pulp (nerve of the tooth), as well as the alteration of all the tissues around the root of each tooth. In simpler terms, this is the type of dentists who can avoid tooth extractions due to infections or nerve death, as a result of either an aggravated case of cavities or a complicated fracture involving the pulp.
Proper oral hygiene and regular visits to the general dentists can help you never need the services of a periodontist. However, when faced with infectious or progressive diseases that affect the gums and other tissues that support the tooth, periodontics is the specialized area to treat and restore the damaged area. Gingivitis and periodontitis are one of the main conditions treated by this specialty.
Entering restorative dental specialties, we have orthodontics, which is responsible for diagnosing, correcting and preventing cases of mild alignment, serious cases of malocclusion or crowding of the teeth. This through the application of various orthodontic treatments that includes the placement of dental braces, splints or special aligners. If what you are looking for is perfectly aligned and functional teeth, this is the professional you should consult.
We can also know it as prosthetic dentistry and it basically focuses on the restoration of lost teeth, through the use of crowns, bridges, temporary prostheses or the different dental implant alternatives. It could be said that it is one of the dental specialties that covers the most “traumatic” cases in dentistry, since the reasons that cause the loss of one or more teeth can be very diverse.
7. Oral and maxillofacial radiology
At this point we are already finding specialties that generally work hand in hand or to facilitate the treatment of those already mentioned above. And, in the case of oral radiology for example, it is not a specialty to which we turn on our own when faced with dental discomfort, it is generally another specialist who refers us. So, oral and/or maxillofacial radiologists cover that area of dentistry that performs, analyzes and interprets oral and maxillofacial images of a patient. By images we mean intraoral plates, x-rays or MRIs that help determine alterations or diseases in the teeth and in the maxillofacial area.
8. Oral and maxillofacial surgery
In this case, like any other surgical specialty, oral and maxillofacial surgery covers a more extensive and perhaps complicated territory. It involves intervention for diseases or alterations that affect the tissues not only of the oral cavity, but can also extend to the jaw, face and even the neck. Depending on the complexity of a patient, these professionals can work hand in hand with other specialties such as aesthetic surgery, oncology or otorhinolaryngology. They also specialize in the extraction of damaged or crowded teeth.
9. Oral and maxillofacial pathology
It is probably one of the least known dental specialties. Be careful, this does not mean that it does not have a high degree of relevance in terms of the prevention and timely treatment of chronic or potentially malignant diseases in the teeth, as well as in the oral mucosa, tongue, lips and jaw bones. The diagnosis and interpretation of an oral and maxillofacial pathologist plays a determining role in the early detection of oral cancer.
With the characteristics of dental specialties a little clearer, it is likely that choosing a dentist according to your needs will be much easier. Even so, as we always recommend the annual preventive visit, it will always be the best alternative to avoid requiring more complicated treatments with specific professionals.