Female dentist showing her patient X rays

The Different Types of Dentists

When you need to see a dentist you probably don’t think about what kind of dentist to go to. Just like with medical doctors, there are many different types of dentists that specialize in certain areas.

Most of the time your general dentist will refer you to the right type of specialist if you need specialized care. There are some instances where you might need to know what you’re looking for, though. These 7 are the most common types you’re likely to run into.

General Dentist

A general dentist is the most common type of dentist there is. Anyone who earns a dental degree can practice as a general dentist.

This is where you’re going to go most of the time. You can get routine cleanings, emergency exams, gum disease diagnosis and treatment, and fillings when you have cavities. This is also where you could get things like crowns and veneers. Basically, anything that has to do with the restoration or beautification of your teeth can be done by your general dentist.

Pediatric Dentist

A pediatric dentist is who you’ll take your kids to see for their general dentistry needs. It’s like the dental version of a pediatrician.

Some general dentists will also see children, but many parents prefer to go to pediatric dentists because they specialize in treating children from the time their first teeth come in all the way through getting their adult teeth. Those offices are typically more kid-friendly, too, which can help remove some of the anxiety that some children experience with trips to the dentist.

Orthodontist

An orthodontist is where you go if you need to straighten out your jaw or your teeth. An orthodontist will use something like braces or Invisalign to turn crooked teeth or fix an overbite or underbite.

Female dentist examines older male patient’s gums

Periodontist

Periodontists take care of your gums, bone, and tissue that supports your teeth. They are essentially gum disease experts and are there to help you prevent and treat the condition.

A periodontist will see you if a general dentist has done a cleaning or deep cleaning and your teeth or gums aren’t responding to treatment. The specialist will then be able to address any recessed gums, pockets, bone grafting, extractions, or implants as necessary.

Endodontist

Also known as root canal specialists, endodontists treat the nerves of your teeth. Inside of each tooth, you’ll find what’s called the pulp, along with blood vessels and nerves. When your tooth gets cracked or a cavity goes too deep, it can impact the pulp and lead to nerve damage. That damage can end up killing your tooth. Endodontists have the ultimate goal of saving your teeth so they don’t need to be extracted.

Oral Surgeon

An oral surgeon is one of the types of dentists that perform surgery on your mouth. They’re most widely known for doing wisdom teeth extractions. Wisdom teeth are the ones in the very back of your mouth that come up last. Many times they don’t have enough room to erupt, so they end up becoming impacted and can potentially cause problems for the rest of your teeth.

Oral surgeons can also handle extractions, jaw surgeries, implants, facial trauma surgeries, and even biopsies for spots in your mouth that are concerning. Many times they work closely with ear, nose, and throat doctors, too.

Prosthodontist

If you need a tooth replaced, you’re going to be seeing a prosthodontist (think prosthetics). They handle dentures, crowns, bridges, and other types of treatment that improve the appearance of your teeth. That includes whitening and veneers.

Prosthodontists will also help treat Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ). They can assist with getting rid of pain caused by the pressure on nerves from the jaw disease, often using bite guards or some type of physical therapy.

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