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What Is the Definition of “General Dentists?”
In North America, general dentists make up about 80% of the 143,000 of those who hold a dental degree and are in current practice. While their colleagues specialize in a particular area of oral care, the scope of a general dentist's practice is much wider. Patients experiencing dental problems often see a general dentist first for evaluation and referral to another oral health professional, if necessary. Some general dentists also provide some advanced dental care.
Services provided by general dentists
Some people may underestimate the role that dentists have to play in overall health. However, the fact is that dental issues may be indicative of problems that extend beyond the mouth. A dentist can help to identify these signs. Additionally, general dentists perform restorative, preventative and cosmetic oral care.
Dentists can provide the following services that relate to overall health:
- Advice on smoking cessation
- Nutritional counseling
- Treatment of mild obstructive sleep apnea
- Screening for oral cancer
Some conditions can start in the mouth and spread outward to affect other areas of the body. Oral infections, for example, can cause complications during pregnancy, contribute to cardiovascular disease and make diabetes harder to control.
A general dentist can provide care when a tooth is lost suddenly due to dental trauma. Often, though not always, it may be possible to reinsert the tooth. When a tooth is not salvageable, a general dentist can replace missing teeth with bridgework, crowns or dentures. However, dentists do not perform restorative services only for teeth that are missing entirely. Teeth that are diseased due to tooth decay often require fillings, which are probably the most commonly performed restorative dental service.
In addition to restoring lost or diseased teeth, a significant part of the role that general dentists play is preventative measures to stop decay and tooth loss from occurring in the first place. As a matter of fact, 65% of all dental procedures are preventative or diagnostic in nature, and most people see their dentists more often than any other health care provider. Common preventative measures include screening with X-rays, cleanings, sealants and custom-made mouth guards for those who lead an active lifestyle.
Dinginess or yellowness of the teeth is not necessarily a health concern. Nevertheless, some people seek aesthetic improvement of the teeth's appearance. General dentists can help by performing whitening procedures or applying porcelain veneers.
Education required of general dentists
It typically takes about eight years to complete the necessary education to become a general dentist. Four years of undergraduate study, typically culminating in a bachelor's degree, are followed by four years of dental school. Upon graduation, a general dentist receives either a DDS or DMD degree, depending on the school. Apart from the name, however, there is no difference between the two.
There is much that general dentists can do to preserve and promote oral health. However, it requires the patient to cooperate by making regular visits to the office for checkups and following instructions at home.
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