Dental 101: Your Guide to Understanding the Different Types of Dentists

For most people, going to the dentist is just “one of those things” everyone has to do at one point or another. Checkups at the doctor aren’t that bad, as they usually just take your height and weight, see how you’re breathing, take your blood pressure and answer a few questions.

Dentist appointments, on the other hand, are rarely that enjoyable. The clean feeling on your teeth is quite comforting, but it’s never fun to have someone sticking their hands in your mouth and poking around your gums.

“So, how is school going this year?” the dentist asks.

“Wgell, it gng gud…” you attempt at replying.

“Please, keep your mouth wide and open.”

Awkward conversations aside, there are various dental specialties out there that perform a number of different tasks. Even though you might be familiar with various oral healthcare practices, exact needs may change certain circumstances.

Are you looking to head to the dentist soon? Check the list below to make sure you’re going to the right one.

General Dentist

When you think of dentistry, these are likely the dentists that pop into your head. They’re the ones where you’ll go to have you teeth cleaned, x-rays and telling you how to brush your teeth. Chances are you’ve (hopefully) visited this type of dentist before as they are involved with the most basic of oral care.

While technically a separate dentistry specialty, pediatric dentists serve the same purpose but for children. They will be able to advise children and parents about other specialities as well as providing general oral care.

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While general dentists can advise you on other needs such as surgery and braces, you’re going to want to head to other dentists for those matters.

Speaking of braces…


Orthodontists specialize in teeth and jaw alignment, meaning they help turn those snaggle-tooth smiles into beautiful movie-style pearls. They’ll be the ones that will apply the braces or wires. You should expect to visit them every few weeks for tightening or adjustments on your brackets.

After you’re finished with braces, they’ll fit a retainer for you to help keep your teeth in place.


While most people think dentistry is about the teeth, the gums are just as important. Periodontist focus on gum health and will help advise and treat any gum malformation or diseases.

They can also deal with repairing gum tissue, if it has been damaged by disease or other issues. While general dentists can advise on gum health, it is best to see a periodontist in case of serious gum issues.


Try saying that five times fast! Prosthodontists are those that repair damaged teeth and jaw bones. Since the name prosthodontist is so long, they are also known as cosmetic dentists.

They will also perform teeth whitening, improving the overall appearance of teeth or using veneers. If you’ve had to have a crown or bridge inserted, you’ve gone to a prosthodontist. They also deal with adult and child dentures.


We’ve arrived to the “scariest” of all dentists so far: the endodontist. Endodontists are responsible for performing root canals and specialize in all issues surrounding the nerves around the teeth.

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What are root canals anyway? The pulp around your tooth can be damaged or decay over time and if that area cannot be treated, then a root canal must be performed. It’s probably one of the most common procedures in dentistry.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

These dentists deal with oral diseases of the teeth and jaw. They can work on anything from the gums, cheeks, lips, tongue, facial tissues and more. Essentially anything around the face, these are your guys.

Surgeons are different in that they have trained in hospitals after completed dental school  and deal with more invasive surgeries, reconstructive surgeries and more.

They work closely with ear, nose and throat doctors on some procedures and will even help identify cancerous tissue. When it comes to dentistry, these dentists are generally the most unique out of all.

There are also oral and maxillofacial radiologists and pathologists. These dentists will specialize in the identification of certain diseases and issues in and around the facial region through clinical, radiographic and other examinations.

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