Dental Specialities! What you didn't know about your tooth doctor

Specializations in dentistry - What they do!

Jan 30, 2023

If you ask a layman to describe a dentist, they would sum it up in one phrase - 'the teeth doctor'. There is an alarming lack of awareness among the general public on the spectrum of health issues that the dental community protects them from in everyday life. After toiling almost the same amount of years as a medical doctor equipping themselves with knowledge and skills that range from full mouth teeth rehabilitations to complex facial reconstructions, the public perception of a dentist still boils down to a simple tag of 'the doctor that makes your toothaches go away'. Unlike in general medicine, the common man to this day still isn't aware of the various specializations a dentist does after an undergraduate nor the fact that such specializations even exist!

A dentist does more than treat your toothache. They treat various pathologies that originate in the mouth that has repercussions on your general health, restore your teeth if or after you've lost them (sometimes in a way that is better than it was before), change your appearance for the better, design a better smile for you and even nurse fractured jaw bones back to health in the event of a trauma. 

Be it aesthetics, cosmetics, oral care for your toddler or getting artificial teeth, there is a dentist for every occasion. Here are the various specializations in dentistry that you didn't know about. Next time you have to visit a dentist, you can skip the general practitioner and directly seek out one of these specialists nearest to you depending on your needs. 

The Endodontist.

Starting with the most basic, yet the most prevalent problem that arises out of your mouth, the endodontist is whom you should see when you have to deal with those pesky toothaches that can ruin your sleep at night. The endodontist is a master in conservative dentistry and endodontics. It is evident from the word 'conservative' that the endodontist's primary aim is to always save your natural teeth at any cost! They have deft fingers which they use to navigate the millimeter-wide pulpal canals within your teeth using small instruments like dental files during root canal treatments. They have a strong sense of facial aesthetics and can restore a semi-destroyed tooth with acrylic restorative materials like composite fillers which are tricky to maneuver inside the mouth. Conservative dentistry and endodontics have benefited a lot from the rapid growth in biomedical engineering in recent decades, employing light cure technology in composites and glass ionomer cement, endo motors, rotary files, bioclear matrices, dental loupes, rubber dams, injectable canal sealers etc reducing treatment time while maximizing efficiency. 

Apart from root canal treatments and crown restorations with veneers, metals and ceramics, an endodontist is a go-to person if you're in the mood for a gold crown, teeth whitening (bleaching) or tooth jewelry. The latter is an increasingly popular trend among women, especially for social gatherings like weddings and parties. Additionally, if you'd like to change something about the appearance of your teeth without any surgical intervention, an endodontist to an extent can bring about changes such as increasing or decreasing the length of your anterior teeth and closing the gaps between teeth using composite resins

Bear in mind that it requires a high degree of dexterity in fingers to become an endodontist in the first place. Hence, if you are someone who is very particular about appearances, it would be advisable for you to always prefer an endodontist over a general dentist for all your dental needs.

The Paediatric Dentist.

Taking a toddler to a dentist is the stuff that nightmares are made of! Not only for a parent but for a dentist in general. The moment a parent walks into his/her office with a child, the dentist braces himself/herself for the pandemonium of screams and tantrums that are about to ensue. OR the dentist in question would call in or refer the child to a pedodontist - the pediatric dentist, who is better equipped to deal with any and all oral problems of children from infancy to early teens.

A pedodontist is more than just a dentist who is educated in child psychology and behavioral management of children of all age groups. Almost all of the appearance-based dentofacial abnormalities that plague society today could have been avoided had these people been consulted by a pedodontist during their childhood. Protruded front teeth, malalignment and crowding of teeth, gaps between teeth, open bites, gummy smiles etc are all the result of neglected pediatric dental care during childhood. It is important for parents to find a competent pedodontist for their child from the moment his/her teething begins and from thereon work in tandem with said pedodontist to ensure the proper development of the child's dentition to avoid malpositioning of teeth. The improper and irregular arrangement of teeth during childhood can negatively impact the resulting facial structure of the child. The malalignment could develop as a result of prolonged childhood habits such as thumb sucking, overuse of pacifiers, mouth breathing, etc. Regular visits to a pedodontist would ensure that any harmful habits the child has to get nipped in the bud by addressing the reasons behind it from a dental as well as a psychological standpoint. 

If you are a parent who doesn't have a regular pedodontist for your child, find one today to ensure that he/she grows up to become the most handsome/beautiful adult version of themselves. If you were a little too late in realizing this and now have an adolescent or a teenager who has a less-than-desirable facial appearance due to improper teeth arrangement, or you are one yourself, fret not! Dentistry has the answer for you too! Read on.

The Orthodontist.

Anyone who has ever undergone an orthodontic treatment knows how daunting and time-consuming it is. But the transformation it guarantees is nothing short of magical. An orthodontist is a dentist that corrects dental and skeletal malformations that manifests as a protruded jaw, a retruded jaw, undesirable gaps between teeth, improper bites like an open bite or a crossbite, a gummy smile or crowding of teeth. Not only do these problems give you an unsightly appearance but they also increase your susceptibility to tooth decay and other forms of oral infections.

Unlike endodontists who contribute to your facial aesthetics through the deftness of their fingers, the orthodontist's sense of aesthetics lies in his/her imagination and the treatment plan he/she makes according to it. The orthodontist looks at your face and sees what it could be. Their treatment plans depend on their experience and the estimations and calculations they make in their minds. Then they just let physics do the job. They strap elastics and metallic wires ( stainless steel or Ni-Ti) to the teeth with the help of dental brackets to apply a measured force on your teeth throughout the day, bringing about its movement in the desired direction. An orthodontic treatment may last from months to years depending upon the severity of the malalignment of the teeth. 

Wearing braces is a daunting endeavour considering the discomfort and diet restrictions on top of the psychological effects of being seen with it in the mouth. However transparent braces (like Invisalign) are the norm these days which at least enables the patient to prevent drawing attention to the fact that they are undergoing orthodontic treatment in everyday life. 

If you are unhappy with the arrangement of the teeth in your mouth and feel that it is negatively impacting your appearance, go see an orthodontist today.

The Periodontist.

A Periodontist in a nutshell is the doctor of gums. You can hear the voice of Ross from Friends in your head right now going, "That's like the smallest body part you can major in!"

You wouldn't be laughing if you knew the role your gums play in maintaining not only the structural integrity of the oral cavity but your systemic health in general. The periodontium is the supporting cast of the teeth that hold them in their place. It constitutes the gingiva(the gums) and the underlying alveolar bone. The gums are highly vascular and are highly interactive with the circulatory system of the rest of the body. This is why periodontal diseases can cause complications in your systemic health as well.

Periodontal diseases manifest when harmful bacteria in the mouth outnumber the useful microbes that protect the body. This leads to calculus formation - a yellowish or greenish-white calcified mass around the gingival margins of the teeth which people mistake to be a part of the teeth themselves. They do not get dislodged by brushing or flossing.

Calculus over time causes chronic inflammation of the gums which may manifest in patients as bleeding while brushing, receding gums exposing the roots of the teeth and halitosis (bad breath). Left untreated, it can progress to outright destruction of the underlying alveolar bone resulting in tooth mobility and pain on chewing. Depending on various etiological factors, gum diseases can progress at varying rates. You would have come across people who lost all their teeth while still in their forties!

A periodontist can arrest and even reverse the progression of rapidly spreading periodontal diseases where other dentists failed. They are well versed in minor oral surgical procedures like gum remodeling and reconstruction using flaps taken from healthy parts of the oral cavity. With the advent of surgical lasers, the success rates and postoperative healing times of minor periodontal surgeries have also gone up significantly. 

It is important to visit your periodontist at least twice a year for complete oral prophylaxis. This refers to a full mouth cleaning that removes harmful calculi and other microbial deposits in the mouth using an ultrasonic scaler. Periodontists are better equipped to do deep cleaning beneath the gums and on root surfaces as compared to other dentists. If you haven't undergone a dental cleaning recently, book an appointment with a periodontist right away.

Once again, if you've realized a periodontist's worth a little too late and are now faced with the prospect of losing your teeth, dentistry has a solution for that too. Enter the prosthodontist!

The prosthodontist.

Prosthetic dentistry and implantology is the branch of dentistry that deals with the rehabilitation of a mouth that has suffered partial or complete teeth loss due to various reasons. An expert in the biomechanics of jaw movements, a prosthodontist uses his knowledge to not only provide you with removable or fixed dentures that fit your oral cavity but also make sure that it doesn't impede the functional movements of your jaws.

Dental implants are prostheses that have the closest resemblance to natural teeth in form and function. They are screw-like metal posts that get drilled into the jawbone over which a crown made of zirconium, porcelain, ceramic or metal alloys will be placed. The other form of dental prostheses includes complete or partial acrylic dentures that are removable or bridge prostheses that are fixed to existing teeth. While these are for anyone, it requires a certain amount of medical fitness to be eligible for implant surgery.

Talk to a prosthodontist for all your dental rehabilitation needs today.

There are more specializations in dentistry than the ones mentioned above including nonclinical branches like oral medicine and oral pathology. Then there are the maxillofacial surgeons who specialize in treating facial fractures and pathologies like cancers. It will take a separate article entirely to talk about them.

Every dentist you encounter will be a master in one of these specialties while maintaining a working knowledge about the others. It is important to see them not just as 'doctors of teeth' but as they really are which is adequately conveyed in the following expression:-

Doctor + Engineer + Artist = Dentist!