What do Dental Specialists do?

Periodontist Dr Tan Wah Lay
11 Dec 2018

What do Dental Specialists do?

What’s so special about dental specialists you might ask. It’s just a tooth in a small mouth!

The mouth is actually a very complicated system. We have to ensure a dental restoration or treatment can last in a wet environment, surrounded by bacteria 24/7, and is subjected to complicated forces from normal function and abnormal function (parafunction).

Teeth also help to maintain facial muscles and looks, proper speech and pronunciation of words. A change in the shape, position or length of a single tooth can have huge effects in a person’s speech, aesthetics and self-esteem.

different teeth conditions

So, what are Specialist Dentists?

Dental specialists are a group of dentists who spend a further three years in a Master’s program, post a basic program, training in an area of dentistry they have special interests in.

Basic dental training in Singapore is a 4–year programme, and all of us graduate as Dental Surgeons (General Dentists). We are all equipped with basic skills to treat a wide range of dental diseases.

Some of us, who decide we do not like all areas of dentistry, or who have a special interest in one area of dentistry, spend a further 3–6 years in training and hospital attachment to become an expert in a particular field. After which, most of us Specialists choose to only practice a single field of dentistry.

Does it mean General Dentists are less skilled?

Not at all. In fact, they are the ones who are good at everything, like a Jack-of-all-trades. But when things get complicated, or if a dental problem is beyond their level of training, they would refer to a Specialist to ensure that you, our patient, get the best care you deserve. After all, every tooth is precious as we are only given one set of adult dentition, unlike sharks!

The Role Of A General Dentist

Imagine—if you have a house which needs repair and maintenance, you would call in a general contractor. He would help you with simple repairs around the house. But if he has repaired a leaking roof, and it leaks again, what would he do? He would call a waterproofing specialist.

So, do make general dentists your family dentist and your go-to for regular checks and cleaning, and for general dentistry services such as fillings, extractions and cosmetic dentistry.

However, if your problem has been treated for some time but the symptoms are not going away, or if dental disease is widespread, it would be time to go see a specialist. A group of specialists tend to work together to solve complex problems.

Periodontist Dr Tan Wah Lay

This is why The Dental Studio has a team of general dentists working closely with our specialist dentists. This allows you to complete your dental treatments all in one stop, and to have issues escalated smoothly if the need arises. We have a prosthodontist, orthodontists, periodontist, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons. If these terms are confusing, read on to see what they mean.

Here Are The Different Types Of Dental Specialities

1. Prosthodontics (This would be my speciality):

We are the fixer-uppers. My favourite TV program on HGTV (Joanna Gaines!) We are the ones who fix the gaps with dentures, bridges and implant restorations, and rebuild broken-down teeth with crowns and onlays. A general dentist is trained to do a single crown but not a mouth of crowns to restore a worn-out dentition and bite.

prosthodontics conditions

Prosthodontics [pros-thuh-don-tiks]
The branch of dentistry that deals with the restoration and maintenance of oral function by the replacement of missing teeth and other oral structures by artificial devices. (Dictionary.com, 2018)

2. Endodontics

They are the pipe cleaners. They are also the ones who help with pain management. If you have a toothache, it means the dental pulp within the tooth is diseased or dead, thus releasing pus from the root tip. The pressure that builds up in the bone surrounding the dead tooth causes immense pain.

An Endodontist helps to do root canal treatment, which is to remove and clean the canal within the tooth.

root canal treatments

The difference between an Endodontist and a General Dentist is that Specialists are trained to do root canal treatment with a microscope and cases referred to them tend to be more complicated. They are also referred any root canal treatment a General dentist might not be comfortable performing

Wikipedia states: Endodontics (from the Greek roots endo- “inside” and odont- “tooth”) is the dental specialty concerned with the study and treatment of the dental pulp.

3. Periodontics

They are the foundation specialists. Imagine repainting your house or renovating the interiors but the foundation of your house is damaged! That house would not be standing for long. Our teeth are similar and they anchor foundations (roots) into bone, surrounded by gum.

gum disease

Gum disease is caused by bacteria, and is largely due to the accumulation of bacteria from poor oral hygiene, or can be caused by host susceptibility factors such as uncontrolled diabetes, smoking or immunocompromised patients. Patients with gum disease will lose supporting bone, resulting in gum recession, longer teeth, gaps, bad breath and in severe cases, gum boils and loose teeth.

Gum treatment involves deep cleaning of the root known as root planing, to reduce bacteria, to remove gum disease. If you have been seeing a general dentist but still getting gum boils, bleeding gums or shifting teeth, it might be time to visit a gum specialist.

Periodontics [per-ee-uh-don-tiks]
The branch of dentistry concerned with the structures surrounding and supporting the teeth. (Google Dictionary, 2018)

4. Orthodontics

They are the interior decorators. They move furniture around till things look good. Orthodontist are the most well-known of all dental specialists as most of us are familiar with braces. They move teeth to a proper position to achieve a beautiful straight smile.

Wikipedia: Orthodontia, also called orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, is a specialty of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and correction of malpositioned teeth and jaws.

metal braces for teeth straightening
invisalign for teeth straightening

5. Paedodontics

They help care for baby teeth. All General dentists are well trained to treat kids. For certain fearful children or children with widespread tooth decay, a General dentist would refer them to a Paedodontist, where the child may be offered other treatment options, such as general anaesthesia and dental crowns.

Paedodontics [ped-uh-don-tiks or, esp. British, pee-duh-]
The branch of dentistry that deals with children’s teeth. (Google Dictionary, 2018)

children dentist in singapore

6. Oral Maxillofacial Surgery

General dentists are called Dental Surgeons as we all are trained to do extractions and simple wisdom tooth surgery.

Oral maxillofacial specialists are trained in complex surgeries and are known as Oral Maxillofacial Surgeons. They can remove cysts and tumours, perform biopsies, reconstruct jaws, do aesthetic jaw surgery, dental implant surgery and wisdom tooth surgery. They are the ones who help tear down broken bits of the house.

elongated receded chin jaw

Wikipedia: Oral and maxillofacial surgery specializes in treating many diseases, injuries and defects in the head, neck, face, jaws and the hard and soft tissues of the oral (mouth) and maxillofacial (jaws and face) region. It is an internationally recognized surgical specialty.

Conclusion

See your general dentist regularly for your twice-annual checks, but when in doubt, seek a second opinion with a dental specialist. If you already are aware of any extensive dental issues, you should make an appointment to see one of us.

Dentists are not scary people, and we always aim to provide the best care to our patients in the most comfortable manner. Dentistry is not expensive, but neglect or delay is!

Need help from a Specialist Dentist?

Book an appointment with Dr Lynette Ng to check your teeth or get treatment.

About Author

Dr Lynette Ng

Dr Ng is an experienced Prosthodontist, and she manages a team of associate specialists, comprising of Orthodontists, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and a Periodontist.

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Incorporated in 2005, Singapore Medical Group (SMG) is a private specialist and primary healthcare provider with a network of more than 20 medical specialties. The Group is committed to its promise of providing patient centred medical care and experience to every individual. SMG has 35 clinics and a growing network of SMG Associates all across the island.

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