The American Dental Association defines general dentistry as “the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity” provided by a trained dentist. Just like a physician must complete medical school, a dentist must graduate from a four-year dental school to become a general dentist. A general dentist’s primary objective is to provide preventative dental care to their patients.
What Does a General Dentist Do?
Unlike specialists, who receive additional training in and may provide only certain special procedures, a general dentist offers a variety of services that are integral to maintaining your oral and overall health.
- Preventing diseases: your dental hygienist cleans your teeth (at least) every 6 months, performs preventative x-rays, and offers at-home instructions to help you keep your mouth healthy.
- Treatment: if your dentist finds a problem, they will provide the proper treatment, including procedures like composite tooth-colored fillings, root canals, tooth extractions, dental implants, and installing gear such as braces.
- Cosmetic procedures: your dentist can perform aesthetic treatments such as teeth whitening, veneers, or new crowns
The Importance of General Dentistry
Many people don’t realize how important their oral health is to their overall health; they see their dental health as separate from their other health concerns. However, your oral health can be a symptom or even the cause of more serious illness. Your general dentist can help prevent and treat these health risks by screening your mouth for signs of disease or providing dental solutions that may help resolve other systemic problems. For example, an oral infection can aggravate diabetes or cardiovascular disease; poor oral hygiene can lead to complications during pregnancy; bad breath can be a symptom of a more serious stomach issue. Your dentist can identify and address these oral problems and prevent more serious health issues.
When Should I See My General Dentist?
Most experts recommend that people see their dentist once every six months, or more often as oral concerns arise. If you have no underlying health issues or oral concerns, your dentist will likely recommend routine visits twice a year for cleanings and preventative screenings. These visits typically last an hour or less, and are meant to maintain great oral health. If you experience symptoms of an oral problem such as toothache, tooth sensitivity, mouth ulcers, severe bad breath, or sleep apnea, your dentist may suggest meeting more frequently in order to carefully monitor the issue.