Most people are familiar with a general dentist, who handles routine cleanings and oral examinations. There are many more complex problems that can occur in the mouth and are beyond the ability of a general dentist to handle. Problems such as these may require the attention of a dental specialist.
Dental specialists go through the standard training to become a general dentist, but they go on to perform extra studies to gain certification in one of several dental specialties. You can find detailed information about different dental specialties in a journal of clinical dentistry, but here is a brief overview.
1. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
A general dentist can perform simple tooth extractions. However, when it comes to issues such as cleft palate surgery, corrective jaw surgery, or extraction of unerupted or impacted teeth, you may need to see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. In addition to performing surgery, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can also administer anesthesia as needed.
Many people have permanent teeth that come in crooked or misalignment of the jaw. This can cause functional problems as well as affecting aesthetics. An orthodontist uses several different types of appliances to bring the teeth and jaws back into better alignment. They can treat adults as well as children.
Diseases of the gums can also affect the teeth. The gums are among the structures that support the teeth. If that support goes away, it can lead to tooth loss. Gum disease can also cause problems like bad breath. Periodontists specialize in treating diseases of the gums.
Each tooth has different layers, and the innermost layer is the pulp. Severe tooth decay can cause the pulp to become infected. When this occurs, it is sometimes necessary to extract the tooth. An endodontist treats the infection and hopefully saves the tooth by performing a procedure called a root canal, which removes the infected pulp and replaces it with a bio-composite material.
There are also pediatric dentists who mostly perform the same tasks as a general dentist but with special training to treat young children.