What are the types of dental treatment?
The type of dentist a person needs to visit depends on their age and the oral health condition they have. The most common types of dentistry include general dentistry, family dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, and specialty dentistry.
To ensure you receive the proper care, read about the different types of dentists and the services they offer below:
Eighty percent of dental practitioners are general dentists. They are concerned with the overall health of teeth and oral hygiene. Instead of specializing in one specific area, general dentists offer:
- Restorative dentistry, which includes dental implants, dental bridges, dental bonding, inlays, onlays, and dentures
- Cavity fillings and other tooth decay treatments
- Dental exams and teeth cleanings
- Dental X-rays
- Fluoride treatment
- Wisdom teeth removal
- Simple tooth extractions (baby teeth and adult teeth)
- Cosmetic dentistry
Similar to general dentistry, family dentistry focuses on the health and oral hygiene of teeth. Common procedures and treatments include cavity fillings, sealants, teeth cleanings, and gum disease treatment.
Family dentists treat people during every stage of life. This is because people require different dental care throughout life, depending on their age. For example, oral care for a baby or child is different from that of an adult:
- Dental care for pregnant women and babies
- Dental care for teens and young adults
- Dental care for adults
- Dental care for seniors (65+)
Cosmetic dentistry procedures improve a patient’s smile and self-image. Many general dentists perform cosmetic procedures. However, they must go through additional training after dental school to become certified.
Cosmetic dentistry is not a new practice. However, esthetic treatments are becoming more popular because having an attractive and healthy smile is important to many people.
Common cosmetic procedures and treatments include:
- Teeth whitening treatment
- Gingivectomy (gum contouring)
- Braces, which are not strictly cosmetic. They create cosmetic results but have many functional aspects as well. These functions include fixing jaw misalignment and crooked teeth, which makes the teeth easier to brush and floss between, ultimately improving a patient’s oral hygiene.
Types of Dental Specialists
There are 9 board-certified dental specialties, but only six focus on individual patient care. General and family dentists provide a wide array of services, while dental specialists are experts in one field of dentistry:
This field of dentistry deals with the periodontium, which are the soft tissues that support and surround the teeth in the mandibular (lower) and maxillary (upper) jawbones.
Periodontists focus on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth. These dental experts also specialize in the function, overall health, and aesthetics of tissue structure.
The primary role of a prosthodontist is to diagnose and restore missing or damaged oral tissues to proper function. They specialize in dental restorations, which restore missing teeth, decayed teeth, or damaged teeth. About 20 percent of a general dentist’s time is spent on prosthetic services.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Oral surgeons specialize in treating the esthetic and functional features of the oral and maxillofacial region. Oral surgeries are typically needed because of accidental injury, trauma, disease, deformities, periodontal issues, dental caries, or tooth loss.
Endodontists deal with the dental pulp and periradicular tissues, which are the blood vessels, tissues, and nerves surrounding a tooth’s root. They are highly trained in performing root canals and surgeries for dental pulp diseases. General dentists perform two root canals per week, while endodontists perform 25 per week (on average).
Orthodontists specialize in malocclusion treatment, a condition where the teeth are not positioned correctly in the upper and lower jaws. Malocclusions can lead to an improper bite, such as an overbite or underbite. Orthodontists provide fixed and removable appliances that correct an individual’s bite and realign teeth over time.
COMMON DENTAL PROCEDURES
Bonding is a treatment that can be used to repair teeth that are decayed, chipped, fractured or discoloured or to reduce gaps between teeth. For this procedure, a dentist mixes composite resin — a type of plastic — into a paste, then tints the mixture to whiten or match the color of your teeth. Several layers of resin are applied to each tooth. Each layer is hardened under an ultraviolet light or laser. Final steps include shaping and polishing the resin material so the finished tooth looks natural and smooth.
Bonding can also be used to build up older teeth to make them appear younger. Bonding is an option for people of all ages, including children, as the resin can be replaced as teeth grow.
A dental brace is a device used to correct the alignment of teeth and bite-related problems (including underbite, overbite, etc.). Braces straighten teeth by exerting steady pressure on the teeth. Learn more about braces and other orthodontic treatments here.
Bridges and Implants
Bridges and implants are two ways to replace a missing tooth or teeth. Bridges are false teeth anchored in place by neighbouring teeth. The bridge consists of two crowns on the anchoring teeth along with the false tooth in the centre. Dental implants are artificial roots used to support replacement teeth.
Crowns and Caps
A crown or cap is a cover that fits over a tooth that has been damaged by decay, broken, badly stained or mis-shaped. It is prepared by your dentist, and usually requires more than one visit to complete.
A crown can be made of acrylic, metal, porcelain, or porcelain bonded to metal. All-porcelain crowns look more like your natural teeth, and therefore are usually used for front teeth, while porcelain bonded to metal is stronger and better for crowns in the back of the mouth. Sometimes all-metal crowns are used for back teeth because of the metal’s strength.
To prepare your tooth for a crown, the tooth is first frozen with anesthesia, and then filed down so the cap can fit over it. An impression of the teeth and gums is made, and a temporary cap is fitted over the tooth until the permanent crown is ready. On your next visit, the dentist will remove the temporary cap and cement the crown onto the tooth. The crown will closely match the colour and shape of your natural teeth.
A severely damaged tooth may need to be extracted. Permanent teeth may also need to be removed for orthodontic treatment.
Dentures are prosthetic devices replacing lost teeth. There are two types of dentures – partial and full. Full dentures are often referred to as “false teeth”. Learn more on our Dentures page.
Fillings and Repairs
Dental fillings and repairs use restorative materials used to repair teeth which have been compromised due to cavities or trauma. More information on fillings can be found here.
Periodontal or gum disease is an infection that affects the gums and jaw bone, which can lead to a loss of gum and teeth. There are two major stages — gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the milder and reversible form; periodontal disease is often more severe. In some cases, gum surgery will be required to reverse the effect of the disease.
Oral Cancer Examination
Oral cancer starts in the cells of the mouth, tongue or throat. Oral cancer screening is usually a routine part of a dental examination. In this exam, your dentist will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, face, and inside your mouth. Your dentist will also look for sores or discolored tissue in your mouth.
Orthodontic services help improve the alignment of the teeth and jaw. Patients who have an overbite, underbite, crossbite, or misaligned teeth may require or seek out orthodontic services to help correct such issues. Examples of orthodontic services include the use of braces, palate expanders, fixed-space maintainers, retainers, headgear, clear aligners, and other specialized dental treatments to improve the alignment of one’s teeth and bite over time.
Diagnostic and preventative dental services
General dentists often provide a wide variety of diagnostic and preventative dental services. This category of dental services is geared towards preserving oral health and avoiding the occurrence of dental issues such as cavities, gum disease, and enamel wear through preventative treatments. Examples of some of the most vital types of diagnostic and preventative services to provide at your practice include X-rays, sealants and fluoride treatments, and of course, routine cleanings and oral exams.
Implants are a fixed alternative to removable dentures. They may be the only option if the loss of teeth has caused the mouth to shrink so it can no longer support dentures. You can use implants to replace just a single tooth or several teeth. To fit an implant, titanium screws are drilled into the jaw bone to support a crown, bridge or denture.
Replacement parts take time to prepare. This is to ensure that they fit your mouth and other teeth properly. This means they may not be available on your first visit to the dentist. Implants are usually only available privately and are expensive. They’re sometimes available on the NHS for patients who can’t wear dentures or whose face and teeth have been damaged, such as people who have had mouth cancer or an accident that’s knocked a tooth out.