A good place to start is by asking for a referral from people you trust — your friends, family, acquaintances, work associates, pharmacist or family doctor. Ask them how long they've gone to their dentist, how comfortable they feel asking questions, what type of dentist they go to (general or specialist). It is important that you find a dentist with whom you feel comfortable.
Other ways to find a dentist include:
- Calling your local dental society for a list of recommended dentists in your area. Your local dental society can be found in the Yellow Pages under "dentist."
- Searching online for dentists in your area. More and more dentists have websites explaining their approach and treatment methods.
General dentists are trained to do all types of treatment. If you have difficult or unusual problems, your dentist may refer you to one of the following specialists:
- Pediatric Dentists/Pedodontists specialize in pediatric (children's) dentistry.
- Endodontists diagnose and treat diseased tooth pulp and perform root canal work (many general dentists also perform root canals).
- Prosthodontists specialize in crowns, bridges and dentures.
- Oral pathologists use laboratory procedures to diagnose diseases of the mouth. They also specialize in forensic dentistry.
- Oral/Maxillofacial surgeons perform surgical treatments, such as removing cysts, tumors and teeth. They can correct fractures or other jaw problems that require surgery, including temporomandibular joint (TMJ). They also use methods similar to those of plastic surgery to treat cosmetic problems of the jaw and face.
- Orthodontists correct improperly positioned teeth, using braces and other appliances to move teeth into a better position.
- Periodontists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.
A general practitioner or specialist can be degreed as either a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine), depending on the school from which he/she graduated. The requirements for each degree are identical: four years of post-graduate study for general practice plus one to two years of advanced study for a particular specialty. A graduate must then pass a state licensing examination in order to begin practice.