General Dentist vs Dental Specialist

general dentist

When you’re experiencing oral health issues, it can be difficult to figure out exactly where to go because there are so many types of dentists and dental specialists. People typically visit general dentists for dental cleanings, exams, and x-rays, but general dentists offer a wide variety of services to meet almost every oral health need. In addition, general dentists will recommend patients to a specialist when necessary.

Continue reading this blog to learn how general dentists and dental specialists differ and who to choose for your oral health needs.   

General Dentist

To become a general dentist, a person must obtain a bachelor’s degree and take the Dental Admission Test to qualify for entrance into dental school. Once accepted, dental students must complete the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree which typically takes four years. It’s important to note that the DDS and DMD degrees are the exact same.

Finally, the dental student must pass the National Board Dental Examinations and complete any other requirements (these vary from state to state). Once all of the requirements are met, the dentist will receive his or her license to practice general dentistry.


Aside from preventive treatments like dental cleanings and exams, general dentists offer services to meet all types of oral health needs. These include restorative dentistry and cosmetic dentistry.

Restorative Dentistry

Restorative dentistry is used to replace missing or damaged teeth. The goal is to restore your smile to its original health and prevent oral health issues in the future.

Restorative dental treatments include:

  • Dental implants
  • Dental crowns
  • Dental bridges
  • Inlays and onlays
  • Tooth fillings
  • Root canals

Cosmetic Dentistry

Most general dentists offer cosmetic services as well. The goal of cosmetic dentistry is to improve the appearance of a person’s smile. General dentists can conceal flaws, whiten, or straighten your teeth through several different procedures, including:

  • Porcelain veneers
  • Teeth whitening
  • Short-term orthodontics
  • Gum reshaping
  • Teeth contouring
  • Crown lengthening
  • Tooth bonding

Patients who need multiple procedures can work alongside their general dentist to create a personalized smile makeover treatment plan. This combines several procedures in a way that saves the patient time and money.

Dental Specialists

After obtaining licensure as a general dentist, some go on to specialize in a specific field of dentistry. This training lasts at least another two years and includes extensive clinical experience in their specified area of study.

Dentists choose one of these ten recognized dental specialties to study:

  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Endodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Dental Anesthesiology
  • Dental Public Health

While a specialty dentist can perform all basic procedures, most only perform procedures that fall under their field of dentistry.   

Who to Choose

Patients don’t typically go to a specialist for all of their oral health needs. Oftentimes, general dentists refer patients to a specialist only when necessary.

A general dentist should be your first call when you are experiencing oral health problems. You’ll most likely be able to receive the care you need and save money. However, if a complicated procedure is necessary, you can trust your general dentist to recommend you to a specialist.

If you’re searching for a general dentist in the Salt Lake City area to meet all your oral health needs, consider Dr. Rod Gleave. With over 25 years of experience and hundreds of satisfied patients, you can trust his professional opinion.

Call SLC Smiles today at (801) 262-0744 to schedule an appointment.

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