A dentist is a qualified healthcare professional who specializes in preventing and treating problems relating to the teeth and mouth. Dentists can go on to specialize in specific areas of expertise, like orthodontics or pediatric dentistry. An orthodontist specializes in alignment of the teeth and related structures and may offer treatment for both medically therapeutic or purely cosmetic reasons. A pediatric dentist or pediatric orthodontist specializes in children’s teeth and mouths, which are very different to an adult’s.
Regular trips to the dentist are a normal part of life for most of us, as good dental care is important for the prevention of tooth and gum disease, among other problems. Prevention is better than cure, and having check-ups at the dental clinic as often as your dentist recommends is the best way to maintain a healthy mouth. For both children and adults, dentists can give the best advice on teeth cleaning and mouthcare, and on diet and lifestyle to maintain teeth and gum health. A dentist can help to identify issues early and prevent more serious problems. A routine dental appointment will involve a thorough examination, perhaps a scale and polish, mouthcare advice, and assessment of any problem areas. If necessary, your dentist will also perform and interpret X-rays during your clinic appointment. Your dentist will not only be able to identify and treat common conditions like cavities, gum disease, or painful wisdom teeth, but will also spot signs of more uncommon and serious problems, like oral cancer.
When problems do occur, dentists are specialists in curative and restorative dental interventions like tooth fillings, where they will clean out a dental cavity and apply a special filling compound, which acts both to restore the appearance and function of the tooth and to protect the damaged area from further decay. More serious tooth decay may require root canal fillings, or tooth extraction. If your dentist has to extract any teeth they will also be able to replace them with dental implants, bridges, or partial dentures, perfectly shaped and coloured to match your other teeth. Dentists and orthodontists can also deal with troublesome or impacted wisdom teeth, usually through full wisdom tooth extraction (removal). Your dentist will be able to perform some dental surgery or can refer you to specialist oral surgeons for more complex conditions relating to the hard and soft tissues of the mouth and teeth – this is called maxillofacial surgery.
Dentists offer a range of cosmetic services like teeth whitening, veneers, crowns, single tooth implants or dental implants to restore or improve a lovely smile. An orthodontist can provide treatments and appliances like braces or surgery to improve tooth alignment. To maintain healthy and beautiful surfaces to your teeth, a dental hygienist can provide a deep-cleaning scale and polish, and apply fluoride varnish and sealant for minor fissures.
Your dental clinic will keep detailed records of your teeth, so it is best to try and stick with the same dentist, who will get to know your mouth and be able to identify any problematic changes over the years. Continuity of care means that your dental practitioners know you and your needs, so it’s important to choose the right dentist from the start.