General Dentist or an Orthodontist

Posted by dentist3 in Dental Articles | 0 comments

Relationships are funny things. Sometimes they can cloud our judgment, make us choose irrationality over rationality, and, frankly, keep us from doing the right thing. Just ask any of the many people who are tired of their current hairdresser. 

Choosing another one can be nearly as difficult as getting a divorce. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. Unfortunately the same thing can happen with health care providers. You see it all the time: friends tell you of a great new dentist in town, or a new medical dr, but you’ve been with yours for years. Let the scheming begin. How are you going to get out of this one?

We should feel lucky when we’ve got the kind of relationship with our general dentists or primary care dentists (general dentists) that makes us want to stay with them. We trust them. That’s fantastic. 

However, don’t let your loyalty guide you down the rosy path that says, “My dentist can do everything.” No dentist can- -at least not to the level of a specialist. I’ve seen this assumption–that a general dentist can do everything at the level of a specialist-from a surgeon’s perspective and from an orthodontist’s perspective.

In dental university, the student is trained to restore and replace teeth damaged by decay and/or periodontal disease. Additionally, each student is exposed to all of the nine specialty disciplines of dentistry, allowing those who wish to pursue a specialty do so by seeking advanced training in a post-graduate specialty program.

The nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) and also perhaps the Malaysian Dental association at the time of this writing include:

-Dental public health is the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community effort.

-Endodontics is the branch of dentistry that is concerned with the morphology, physiology, and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues.

-Oral and maxillofacial pathology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of pathology that deals with the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. It is a science that investigates the causes, processes, and effects of these diseases.

-Oral and maxillofacial radiology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of radiology concerned with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by all modalities of radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders, and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region.

-Oral and maxillofacial surgery is the specialty of dentistry that includes the diagnosis and surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects involving both the functional and aesthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region.

-Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics is the dental specialty that includes the diagnosis, prevention, interception, and correction of malocclusion as well as neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities of the developing or mature orofacial structures. 

-Pediatric dentistry is an age-defined specialty that provides both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs.

-Periodontics is that specialty of dentistry which encompasses the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth or their substitutes and the maintenance of the health, function, and esthetics of these structures and tissues.

-Prosthodontics is the dental specialty pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation, and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance, and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes.

There are general dentists who do provide orthodontic treatment in their offices, and some of them do certain orthodontic procedures quite well. I have absolutely no problem at all if you choose to be treated by your general dentist, as long as you are the one who decides to forgo having a specialist do your orthodontics. 

This is a patient’s right-to-know issue, not a dentist’s right-to-treat issue. You have a right to know that there are specialists who have thousands of hours of training specifically in one area of dentistry and that general dentists cannot possibly master all specialties or even one specialty without spending the same amount of time that specialists do mastering their craft.

In dentistry, as in any profession, there are those practitioners who are scrupulous, and those who are unscrupulous. When general dentists are scrupulous, when they have done the heavy lifting as far as education, mentorship, and practice are concerned, and when they feel that they can provide their patients the same level of care that a specialist can provide- and they can explain this to their patients–then more power to them.

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