Let’s say you’re heading to your dentist for a check-up. It’s been a while, so you’re wondering what to expect. After some X-rays and an oral examination, your dentist informs you that you have a few dental problems you should resolve. They’re not your ordinary issues, either—at the dental office, you’re told you might need to work closely with a dental specialist. You might be wondering, then: when do you need to see a dental specialist? And why do you need specialized dentistry, anyway?
Answering the latter question can give us a little more insight into when to see a dental specialist. Specialized dentistry, for the most part, treats dental problems that go beyond your routine cleaning and dental fillings. A dying tooth, for instance, can only be treated by a root canal. If you have a cleft palate, you might need to see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. These types of issues usually require a particular type and level of skill to treat. And these skills can take years of additional training to hone. Having a center for specialized dentistry makes it easier to get your needed treatments beyond those general services.
So when do you need to see a dental specialist? It depends on your dental problems:
If you need to replace a missing tooth
Sometimes, things happen beyond our control. One moment, you’re playing a friendly game of basketball with a few friends. The next, you’ve got a molar on the floor. When you get a tooth knocked out, prevention and treatment begin with re-inserting the tooth into the socket so it can re-attach. But sometimes it’s a little too late for re-attachment. In these cases, a tooth replacement might be needed.
A prosthodontist is a dental specialist that zooms in on prosthodontics. Prosthodontics is a branch of specialized dentistry that involves the restoration and replacement of teeth. Usually, they work closely with an oral surgeon for the procedure. If you find yourself with a tooth gap, then, they’re often the people to go to.
If your dental pulp is infected
Cavities are a pain to have but can usually be treated with a filling. But some cavities can go deep into your tooth’s inner layer, allowing bacteria and other unmentionables into the dental pulp. This can cause an infection that can turn dangerous without proper treatment.
In these cases, a root canal is a preferred solution. An endodontist—a dental specialist who focuses on the workings of the dental pulp—is responsible for conducting this.
If you need surgery around your oral cavity
Cleft palate is a common physical defect, particularly in children. Here, there is a divide in the child’s palate, which can both make it difficult to eat and expose them to potential infection. To fix this, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon performs surgery on the area to bridge the cleft.
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a type of dental specialist responsible for conducting surgeries around the oral cavity and the facial area. Because the procedures can be quite complex, those looking enter this field of specialized dentistry need some years of additional training.