Finding the right dentist for you and your family can be as taxing as finding a parking space in a crowded shopping center. With thousands of dentists practicing all over the country -- with their own specializations, specific locations and office hours -- how do you narrow your search down to that one dentist who's right for you?
To make matters even more confusing, you'll notice that some dentists' names end with "DDS" (doctor of dental surgery) and others with "DMD" (doctor of dental medicine). So what's the difference? You're in luck -- it's just semantics. Both DMDs and DDSs studied the same thing and earned the same degree. These titles basically let you know that the dentist has had the proper training to perform dental treatment as a general dentist.
Know What You Need
General dentists often use the monikers "cosmetic dentist" or "family dentistry" to indicate that they offer cosmetic dental treatments or can treat your whole family but these aren't officially recognized dental specializations. The dental specialists recognized by the American Dental Association include pedodontists, also known as a pediatric dentist (kid dentist), endodontists (root canal specialists), oral and maxillofacial surgeons (tooth extraction and oral surgery), prosthodontists (restorative specialists), periodontists (gum disease treatment specialists) and for dental braces, an orthodontist (bite specialist).
When you have symptoms such as a severe toothache, constant jaw pain or bleeding gums, it can be easy to automatically assume that you need to see a dental specialist. While you could be onto something, most dental specialists require that you first see a general dentist for a comprehensive dental exam.
If your general dentist determines that you need treatments that are outside the realm of their ability, he or she will then refer you to the appropriate specialist. Keep in mind, however, that many general dentists do perform some of the same treatments as dental specialists, such as wisdom teeth extractions and root canals along with dental crown and dental bridge procedures.