Finding the right dental specialist
We can perform most dental procedures right here in our dental chair but sometimes a particular patient needs a specialist. Dental specialists are, by their nature, specialised in a particular area of dentistry. This means they’ve undergone extra training—that takes at least three years—in their area of expertise.
There are several types of dental specialists, including orthodontists, periodontists, prosthodontists, endodontists, pedodontist and oral pathologists. Orthodontists are oral surgeons, so they remove teeth and perform surgical procedures. Periodontists specialise in looking after the gums and treating gum disease, such as gingivitis.
Prosthodontists look after worn, damaged and missing teeth. These are also the specialists to see for cosmetic restoration and prosthetic replacement of teeth, such as crowns and bridges.
Endodontists specialise in root canal treatments. Pedodontists focus on children’s dentistry. Oral pathologists deal with lumps, bumps and other signs of general diseases, including complicated diseases where symptoms appear in the mouth
Getting the right dental specialist
Generally, there are three different occasions when we refer a patient to a specialist. These are often cases where the specialised eye of an expert is helpful. In their area of expertise, they’re dealing with these problems day in and day out.
The first is when a dentist sees something but they aren’t sure exactly what it might be. For example, a dentist might notice a problem but isn’t able to pinpoint exactly what’s happening or why something is going wrong.
The second is when a dentist understands the issue but isn’t sure if they’re the best person to fix that problem. For example, a dentist recognises a root canal is needed but might not be the best person to perform that procedure.
Making the right decision
The third is when the dentist isn’t entirely sure what the best course of action is. For example, the dentist may refer a patient to a specialist when they aren’t sure if a tooth is so damaged, it might not be worth the time and money to try and fix it. Here, another course of treatment may be explored.
The ideal scenario is that as soon as we see a patient, we can tell if they need to be referred to a specialist. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we’ll start a procedure we thought would be simple only to find that it’s actually a more complicated case.
This happens most often with root canals. When a patient comes into our office in pain, we’ll look at performing a root canal. Once we get into the tooth, the canals themselves are either calcified or an abnormal shape. Canals can be very curved.
If that’s the case, it’s difficult for a general dentist to perform that procedure properly. We simply get the patient out of pain and then provide a dental referral letter to an endodontist.
Going to see a specialist can require some additional time and money, but it’s definitely worth it. We refer patients to a specialist to make sure they have the best possible outcome.