March Madness is over and baseball season is in full swing. Like most games, we have on offense and a defense. The goal of the nine defensive players in the outfield is to keep the offense from scoring. In the game of Major League Dentistry, the goal of the outfield is protect your teeth from all kinds of attack. And if they can help you keep your natural teeth thoughout your entire life, then they have to puul off the equivalent of a no-hitter. Let’s meet your team.
PITCHER – GENERAL DENTIST
The most important player on your team is your general dentist. As your Family Dentist, they are the trusted professionals who guide and maintain your family’s dental health and when necessary will involve the help of the “Dental Specialists,” represented by the other players on our dental team. Licensed to carry out all procedures in dentistry, general dentists are most familiar with preventive, family, basic restorative and cosmetic care, but may take advanced training in specialty areas of interest for example Cosmetic Dentistry. They are your first line of defense in preventing, diagnosing and treating dental and oral health problems. Typically, they repair teeth damaged by decay and treat mild to moderate gum disease. If a tooth is so heavily damaged that it can’t be repaired, some general dentists will carry out extraction and tooth replacement. As the brightest star in the dental galaxy, they direct all of your treatment needs by either providing your care or referring you for treatment to the “Dental Specialists,” recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA). After obtaining a DDS or DMD dental degree, dental specialists receive 3 years or more of additional advanced training in their specialty area.
CATCHER – DENTAL HYGIENIST
Known for keeping your family healthy, they provide the foundation of oral and dental health — prevention (behavior change through diet, oral hygiene instruction and smoking cessation), thorough evaluations and the best cleanings in the field.
FIRST BASEMAN – THE KID DOCTOR
Babies and young children may begin with, or be sent to see a “Pediatric Dentist,” who specializes in the needs of children from the time they start teething in infancy into adolescence when they have all their permanent (adult) teeth. They emphasize prevention and treat children in ways that make them comfortable and that lead to formation of good dental habits. In addition, pediatric dentists use specially designed equipment and decorate their offices with children in mind.
SECOND BASEMAN – THE BRACE DOCTOR
Usually the second specialist we see is the one we see who corrects poorly aligned teeth – an “Orthodontist.” He treats malocclusions (improper bites) using “braces” or clear aligners to straighten them (ortho-straight). Orthodontists know how to move teeth into the right position based on understanding of growth and development, alignment and occlusion (bite) — how teeth come together and function in harmony with the jaw joints. This dental specialist is familiar to most people, since braces are common among adolescents and now, even adults.
THIRD BASEMAN – THE GUM DOCTOR
If your gums bleed, are inflamed or infected, you may need to see a “Periodontist” (peri-around, dont-tooth), a dentist who specializes in the treatment of diseases of the supporting structures of the teeth. Periodontists, like architects, make sure the foundations are healthy — everything that connects you to your teeth including your general health. They carry out plastic surgical reconstructive and cosmetic procedures involving the periodontal structures, including sinus surgery and dental implant placement.
SHORTSTOP – THE ROOT CANAL DOCTOR
If you have a tooth that is badly damaged, your dentist may recommend root canal treatment, which may require the skills of an “Endodontist” (endo-inside), a specialist in diagnosing and treating infections of the pulp tissues containing the nerves of the teeth. Despite a popular misconception that root canal treatment is painful, an endodontist is the specialist who actually relieves the pain of a bad toothache.
RIGHT FIELDER– THE CROWN & BRIDGE DOCTOR
If you have missing teeth, you may be referred to a “Prosthodontist” (prostho-artificial). Prosthodontists specialize in restoring function by creating complete dentures, natural tooth crowns and implant crowns — the parts of the teeth visible in your mouth. Jaw joint problems, grinding habits and sleep disorders related to mouth breathing are also part of this specialty.
CENTER FIELDER – THE FACE & JAW DOCTOR
“Oral Surgery” is a specialty devoted to “maxillo-facial” (head and neck) diagnosis and surgical treatment. It involves exodontia (removal of teeth), surgery for disorders and diseases of the jaws, fractures associated with trauma and orthognathic surgery (jaw repositioning to assist in orthodontic treatment). It also includes sinus surgery for bone regeneration in preparation for dental implant placement. Oral surgery training overlaps with medical training and includes anesthesia (conscious sedation or general anesthesia) to facilitate in-office treatment.
LEFT FIELDER – THE GOVERNMENT DOCTOR
Although you may never see a “Public Health Dentist,” they serve the community rather than the individual, focusing on planning for the public’s dental health; applying dental research and administering group dental care programs. The Public Health Dentist’s goal is to prevent and control dental and oral disease and promote dental health through organized community efforts and public policy.
Hopefully, if the pitcher and the catcher do their jobs well, the ball will never make it into the hands of the outfielders, but they can’t do their jobs if they don’t have a ball. By following their recommendations and keeping regular prevent preventative appointments, your teeth should last the whole nine innings!