There is an old adage that a smart person is not someone who knows everything but a person who knows he doesn't know everything. I truly believe this is the truth with being a dentist. A good dentist is not one that thinks he/she knows it all but a dentist that knows he/she doesn't know it all.

Now there comes a time with most dental patients that a dentist will refer the patient to a specialist. Usually, the patient's first question is, "Why?"

Before I explain why I think I should clarify the different dental specialties. The following are the nationally recognized specialties. I would also like to emphasize the ones that are NOT recognized as true dental specialties. All dental specialists attend certification programs that range in duration from 2 years to 7 years and must pass a state or regional licensing exam to be considered true specialists.

  1. Periodontist: These are the "gum specialists." They concentrate on treating the structures that keep your teeth stable and healthy. These are the gums, periodontal ligament (ligament that holds your tooth to the jaw bone), and the bone surrounding each tooth. They are also fast becomming the specialist of choice for dental implant placement because the most important aspect of implant success is their ability to be stable in the jaw bone.
  2. Prosthodontist: These are the "denture specialist." Although they are very knowledgable about dentures they also specialize in tough crown and bridge cases and full mouth reconstructions for those patients that have gone without teeth for a number of years.
  3. Endodontist: These are the "root canal specialist." Endodontist specialize in performing root canal therapy for a tooth where the nerve has died and formed an abcess. Their specialized training allows for a better long term prognosis for root canals they perform compared to a general dentist. Although a general dentist can have great success on a straight forward root canal treatment, endodontist have much higher success with the tough ones.
  4. Orthodontist: These are the "braces specialist." They have specialized training on straightening your teeth with braces and/or other appliances. Most general dentist can "move" teeth with braces, but orthodontists are the true specialist in "straightening" your teeth and giving you a healthy bite (the way your teeth come together when you close your jaw).
  5. Oral Surgeon: These are the "wisdom teeth specialists." Oral surgeons have completed the four years of dental school and continued on to graduate from either 4 or 7 years of medical school. They are truly M.D.s as well as D.D.S.s. Although dentist usually refer to OS for tough wisdom teeth extractions, oral surgeons also specialize in any surgeries of the head and neck including cancer treatment and TMJ evaluation and treatment.

Next, I would like to expand on some titles for dentist that are NOT true dental specialties. To be continued...

Dental Topics: Prevention Through Education
The field of dentistry has benefitted greatly from the advancements in materials and technologies to help promote good oral health. Yet as a dentist myself, I've seen that my profession has embraced these new technologies at the risk of spending less time promoting "prevention through education." The truth is the healthiest mouths are not the mouths of the wealthiest people, but rather the mouths of educated people. This blog is my effort to educate the public and promote good oral health.