If you aim to take good care of your oral health, you likely visit a dentist’s office at least twice per year. But even the most rigorous brushers and flossers out there can run into issues with their teeth, and dental implants are commonly recommended in many of these cases.

Whether you’ve endured an unexpected injury or found out that your teeth aren’t quite as resilient as they used to be, dental implants are likely to be considered as a possible solution. If this happens to you, the question then becomes: Should you visit your general or local dentist, or seek out a prosthodontic specialist? 

In this article, we’ll give you the information you need to make a decision on which oral care provider is best suited to address your dental implant or veneer needs. For more resources on the various fields of dentistry and maxillofacial surgery, please visit our blog page. If you’re simply eager to find out how Federal Hill Smiles can enhance your overall tooth health with superior dental implants, contact us directly at our Baltimore office!An anatomical reference model of a skeleton positioned to look as though it is stroking its chin in contemplation. Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

“Tooth” Or Myth: Breaking Down Facts About Dentists and Prosthodontists 

Most people who visit the dentist on a regular basis know that they’re making a smart choice for their dental health. What most smile-savvy people don’t necessarily know are the areas of expertise that their dental office may or may not provide. To understand what your local dentistry can do, a helpful first step involves identifying the nature of your dentist’s practice and its services. 

General Dentistry 

You can think of your general dentist as the “quarterback” of your oral health care team. Because their specialized skill set is so diverse, they may often be able to provide services that you would find at a prosthodontic clinic. It really depends on what the general dentist feels comfortable doing or not doing in their own practice that determines whether a treatment like dental implants or oral surgery is outsourced to another provider. You can trust your general dentist with this decision, as they have the educational and professional experience to know what will be best for your individual treatment needs as a patient. 

Most often, when you go to the dentist for a checkup you’ll be seeing a general dentist, or an oral health practitioner who studied oral health on a broad but beneficial scale. At the very least, all clinically practicing dentists must have completed and received a degree in Dental Surgery (DDS) or Dental Medicine (DMD). These academic credentials are virtually the same area of expertise, so those with DDS and DMD degrees work in extremely similar environments.

A general dentist is likely to spend their days working with dental assistants, medical device technicians, dental hygienists, and other personnel in the office like receptionists and patient recordkeepers. The services their office offers may include, but are most certainly not limited to:

  • Annual or semiannual dental checkups 
  • Preventative measures for oral and dental diseases
  • Diagnosis and treatment of common tooth, jaw, and gum conditions
  • Recurring tests, such as X-rays, to evaluate current oral health
  • Performing common surgical and cosmetic procedures on areas of the teeth, mouth, jaw, and face

Prosthodontics 

Deriving its name from the Greek terms  for “replacement” (prostho) and “relating to teeth” (dontist), a prosthodontist is a medical professional who specializes in restoration of natural teeth, as well as surgical procedures that use synthetic materials to substitute dental bones and tissues that no longer function the way they should. If a general dentist can be understood as the practitioner who maintains oral health and prevents gum and tooth disease, a prosthodontist is the care provider who delivers more targeted diagnoses and performs specialized treatments for conditions that were not successfully mitigated in earlier stages.

The educational and experiential requirements of a prosthodontist are a bit more rigorous than those of general dentists, requiring about 3 years of additional training in an accredited graduate program of prosthodontic studies. They may have a greater understanding of oral and dental pathology and more experience in treating complex conditions that cannot be addressed in a single visit to a local dentist’s office. 

Prosthodontists also have extensive knowledge of technical and surgical procedures that can cure or ameliorate serious conditions of the oral cavity and maxillofacial region. The services and surgeries a qualified prosthodontist provides may include:

  • Jaw surgery for Temporomandibular (TMD) Disorder Treatment
  • Restoration and/or replacement of damaged, diseased, or missing teeth
  • Placement of partial Dental implants such as veneers and bridges
  • Placement of permanent dental implants and dentures
  • Diagnosis and treatment of TMD comorbidities such as sleep apnea and bruxism (teeth grinding) 

Can All Dentists Provide Dental Implant Services?

Depending on the kind of dental implant one is receiving, the procedure may be carried out by either a general dentist or a prosthodontist. For implants designed to restore and enhance basic functions of the teeth, a general dentist is likely to handle those preventative procedures. These may include the partial reconstruction of a chipped tooth or the installation of a crown to halt the decay of an infected tooth or root system. 

More often than not, dental implant services are delegated to prosthodontists and occasionally periodontists, who deal more with gum disease and tissue inflammation than dental architecture. Prosthodontists serve a number of vital roles in correcting chronic dental problems and oral health conditions with both temporary and permanent prosthetic solutions. 

What If I Need General Dentistry & Prosthodontic Services?

Given the differences between their respective day-to-day tasks, it’s not unreasonable to assume that general dentists and prosthodontists don’t cross paths very often. But an increasing number of dental clinics are providing more comprehensive service menus to clients, bringing general, cosmetic, prosthetic, and periodontal solutions all into the same practice. 

If you need general dentistry and prosthodontic services in the greater Baltimore area, Federal Hill Smiles has the diversified yet cohesive team of dental professionals to address any and all of your oral health concerns. Contact us to learn more about our preventative treatments for sustained oral health and our industry-leading selection of innovative and effective dental implants. 

Our dental practice in Federal Hill is the only site you’ll need to visit for optimal tooth and gum health, so start saving time and money on your dental bills today! We’ll be the Baltimore dentists who greet you with a smile.