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Who is who in Dentistry?

When searching the internet for any particular dental needs, you may feel that you get swamped with information that does not necessarily make things easier to understand. One such problem that people tend to run into when looking for specialists in the field of dental aesthetics (prosthodontists), is that they will find advertisements from a variety of dentists who claim to have a quick-fix procedure that is perfect for you. It seems that everyone is advertising for this except for the prosthodontist specialists themselves.

The fact is that the majority of dentists are general dentists. This means that they do not have formal training in the restorative or the aesthetic reconstruction of teeth. A reasonable question would be whether formal training is necessary for these kinds of procedures.

To put things into perspective, every licensed dentist completes dental school and passes a series of exams that qualifies them to practice general dentistry. Although dental schools do a great job of educating students on safety and preparing them for life as a dentist, the dental school process is not designed for the mastery of procedures. An increasing percentage of dental school graduates decide to enter one of nine recognized specialties in order to master their specific field. Here, students learn through a one-on-one mentorship with a master in the field. Every specialist goes through a process of rigorous training where they study, learn, and master advanced procedures that are usually just glanced over in dental school. Eventually, the classic story of the student becoming the master comes true, and a specialist is produced. So to answer the question of whether it is worth seeing a specialist, I would say, absolutely.

Now, this is not to say that there are not any very talented general dentists who have proven themselves capable of handling complicated cases. Also, not all specialists are great. The problem, however, is determining who’s who, especially when people advertise themselves to be something they are not. This leads to the confusion of the general population and is something that patients should watch out for.

A major source of confusion can stem from the title of a “cosmetic dentist”. To make things explicitly clear, “cosmetic dentistry” is not a specialty. Every good dentist is concerned with aesthetics. The industry term of “cosmetic dentistry” causes confusion because it implies that all other dentists are not concerned with aesthetics. This is simply not true. I can only speak for myself, but as a prosthodontist, I aim to restore form and function. Every tooth must be functional, and it must be aesthetically appealing as well. However, as I mentioned before, a general dentist may be quite capable of handling aesthetic reconstructions, but it is important to understand that they have most likely not had any formal/extensive training in the procedure.

When deciding on who to go to in the case of aesthetic issues. It is important to research a dentist, check their credentials, and become an informed patient. The idea of this blog is not to suggest what to do or what not to do, it is here to provide the patient with information and a perspective on the dental field from the point of view of a dentist. I hope this is helpful in addressing some common questions on this rather broad topic. Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions on other topics you would like to see discussed! 

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