Will My General Dentist Tell Me If I Need a Specialist?


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The average person thinks of The Dentist as one person who can remedy all oral ailments. While the general dentist knows about most procedures in the dental field, there are several branches of dentistry that require specialized training to deal with particular kinds of dental care.

All dentists have undergraduate work and at least four years of dental school. While your general dentist may handle all aspects of your oral care, there may come a time when he or she may want to coordinate your primary dental treatment with that of a specialist.

The specialist is one who, in addition to general dentistry, has had intensive training and limits their practice to treating conditions in a very specific branch of dentistry. A general dentist that practices comprehensive dentistry, will have a highly qualified referral network of specialists with whom to coordinate patient treatment as needed, depending on the kind of oral care or treatment that may be needed.  A trusted primary dentist won’t hesitate to consult with or refer a patient to a specialist when that is in the patient’s best interest.

Dental Specialties

The field of dentistry, like other forms of healthcare, is constantly adapting to breakthroughs in knowledge and technology. As a result of this adaptation, throughout the years, new specialties or branches of the field have developed. Currently, the branches of dentistry include:

  • Endodontics
  • Minimal intervention dentistry
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Oral medicine
  • Oral pathology
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatric dentistry
  • Preventive dentistry
  • Prosthodontics

A general dentist may have extensive expertise in a particular field, such as prosthodontics, without necessarily having completed all the training as a specialist. Specialists limit their practices to their area of specialization, while general dentists are more like primary care physicians.

When a Specialist is Required

There are occasions when a patient would be best served by the specialized knowledge of an expert. For example, a patient may have an impacted wisdom tooth that needs to be extracted. Perhaps the roots of the tooth are long and they wrap around the jawbone, or the roots may be dangerously close to a nerve. The specialized training of the oral surgeon will come into play in this scenario.

The oral surgeon has knowledge about the most efficient method of extracting the tooth while doing minimal damage to the surrounding tissues and bone. Specialized dental instruments or equipment may be required to safely remove the tooth without disturbing the nerve.

Your family doctor may have you see a specialist for another opinion or to be treated for a condition outside of his or her expertise. So it is with the general dentist. There are situations when a better outcome can be expected when the condition is in the hands of a specialist.

Coordination of Services

Generally, when a patient needs the expertise of a specialist, coordination of services is provided between dentists. They consult one another on the case, share information and often, the general dentist will provide follow-up care in conjunction with the specialist. This teamwork approach ensures that everyone is on the same page and that the patient receives the best care possible.

Dr. Halim provides a wide array of dental services with patient-centered care in mind. He also coordinates treatment plans and services with leading specialists in the D.C. area when necessary. For your best oral health, contact our office today and schedule an introductory oral exam with Dr. Halim. 

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