Dentistry isn’t just about seeing your dentist. Sometimes a more expert opinion is needed.
In these circumstances your dentist will refer you to see an appropriate dental specialists. But who does what ? We have compiled a simple explanation list for your use.
What does an endodontist do?
An endodontist is a qualified dentist who has completed further training to allow them to become a specialist in endodontics (the study and treatment of the tooth tissues and nerve).
Endodontists perform a variety of procedures including root canal treatment, re-root treatment (removing and replacing the previous root treatment as the previous attempt has failed) and treating dental trauma.
If the nerve becomes diseased or injured, endodontic treatment is required to save the tooth. Root canal treatment can be carried out by a dentist; however, occasionally there are circumstances where treatment is difficult. This may be due to the tooth roots being curved or the tooth may have tried to heal itself blocking the path to the infected nerve tissue. An endodontist has extensive equipment including microscopes and electrical equipment to get a successful result in difficult circumstances. This equipment is very expensive and not usually found at a general dental practice.
What does an implantologist do?
An implantologist is a qualified dentist who has undertaken further training to qualify and practice as an implant specialist. An implant specialist will be familiar with the different systems and techniques available and can provide a wide range of treatment options. This can range from replacing one tooth, to replacing all teeth. An implant is usually placed under surgical conditions and patients are usually awake and numbed with local anaesthetic.
An implantologist may have two nurses to assist with the procedure; one nurse will be chair side assisting the specialist, the other is there to assist the specialist and chair side nurse. As all instruments and implant components are sterile, the specialist once in their surgical gowns and gloves cannot touch anything that isn’t sterile. The second nurse can assist with this, from adjusting the chair to opening the box the implant comes in.
What does an orthodontist do?
An orthodontist is a fully qualified dentist who has undertaken extra training to become a specialist who specifically focuses on the improvement of appearance, position and function of crooked or abnormally arranged teeth. This is known as Orthodontics.
Orthodontic treatment consists of braces. There are different types of braces; some are removable (which are used to correct minor problems) and others are fixed to the teeth depending on the treatment required.
A patient can be referred to an orthodontist by their dentist or can arrange a consultation themselves (known as self-referral). An orthodontist will assess their patients to see how they can best suit their needs and expectations. Treatment is available on the NHS providing guidelines are met; alternatively treatment can be offered privately.
What does a periodontist do?
A periodontist is a dentist who specialises in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) which affects the gum and bone supporting the teeth. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.
Some patients’ periodontal needs can be managed by their general dentist. However, patients who have moderate or severe levels of periodontal disease, or patients with more complex cases, will be best looked-after by a partnership between a dentist and periodontist.
What does a prosthodontist do?
A prosthodontist is a highly trained dental specialist in the area of dental restoration. After qualifying as a dentist, further study is undertaken which looks at the study of the anatomy of the head and neck and esthetics. They’re also highly knowledgeable on the various materials available; types of crowns, dentures, implants as so on. Just as importantly, they look at occlusion (how a person bites). A poor bite can lead to various problems, from difficulty chewing, jaw pain and headaches, even displeasing aesthetics.
There’s an option for prosthodontists to take their practices a step further. With further study, they can become trained in maxillofacial prosthodontics which involves treating people with head and neck defects which could be defects present from birth, defects acquired through surgery or from trauma, such as a car accident.
Maxillofacial prosthodontists often plan and help to construct prostheses such as artificial eyes and ears. They also work with patients who need oral prostheses such as obturators. These are oral devices similar to retainers that can be used to block holes in the roof of the mouth (commonly made after a patient has had surgery for oral cancer) in order to help patients with speech, eating, and proper air flow.
Prosthodontists can perform a variety of dental procedures for patients. Here are some of the more common procedures:
Cosmetic Dentistry: Prosthodontists are the best dentists to perform procedures such as tooth veneers and invisible fillings. They can also perform bleaching/whitening procedures, too.
Tooth veneers are made of porcelain and they are extremely thin. Prosthodontists bond them to the teeth in order to correct the shape, position, and/or color of the teeth.
Composite (white) fillings are preferred by some adults as they are more aesthetically pleasing.
Dental Implants: Prosthodontists have a great deal of experience in placing implants and restoring implants. Implants are actually titanium screws that are drilled into a person’s bone; after the implant is secure, a restored tooth is placed on top of the implant.
Crowns/Bridges/Dentures: Prosthodontists can work with patients who need any of these types of dental restorative procedures. Crowns, also known as ‘caps,’ are used mainly to repair chipped and broken-down teeth. They can be made of porcelain, ceramic, and gold. Bridges, too, can be made of various materials. These repair several teeth at a time. Dentures can be made as full sets or as partial sets.