Types of dentist

There are many different types of dentist, each of whom specialises in a particular area of dentistry. Most people are familiar with a general dentist as this is the professional they see on a regular basis, e.g. their twice yearly check-up.

Then there are other dentists such as orthodontists who treat patients with a particular problem, e.g. misaligned teeth.

Most dentists are self-employed and work in high street practices where they have responsibility for dental nurses, receptionists, dental hygienists and technicians. But others are employed in specialised posts within hospitals or other settings, e.g. armed forces.

Types of dentists include:

  • General dentists
  • Cosmetic dentists
  • Endodontists
  • Orthodontists
  • Prosthodontists
  • Periodontists
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons

Plus dentists who specialise in children's dental health: these are known as paediatric dentists.

General dentists

These dentists handle a wide range of dental complaints and treatments which range from check-ups through to crowns, fillings and root canal treatment. They perform extractions as and where necessary.

They are viewed in the same way as a GP: they are a 'family dentist' who tends to the needs of patients of all ages, from children through to the elderly.

General dentists advise about preventative measures such as the importance of oral hygiene, good nutrition and six monthly check-ups which help maintain healthy teeth and gums.

These are non-specialist forms of treatment which are provided to the general public.

Some general dentists offer specialist services such as cosmetic dentistry. But this treatment is only available on a private basis.

If you require specialist treatment then you will be referred to a specialist dentist.

Find out more about the various forms of treatment in the dentistry specialisms section.

Cosmetic dentists

Cosmetic dentistry has grown in popularity with many people paying for a range of treatments which are designed to enhance their facial appearance.

Cosmetic dentists work in private clinics and offer a variety of aesthetic treatments which include:

  • Veneers
  • Composite bonding
  • White fillings
  • Teeth whitening
  • Lumineers
  • Dental implants
  • Gum contouring (correct a 'gummy smile')
  • These treatments are not available on the NHS. Find out more about these and other cosmetic procedures in the dentistry specialisms section.

    Endodontists

    An endodontist deals with internal workings of the teeth which include the pulp, roots and the tissues surrounding the roots. They perform a range of procedures such as root canal treatment and repairs to damaged teeth. But the most common procedure they perform is root canal treatment.

    Find out more about endodontics in the dentistry specialisms section.

    Orthodontists

    An orthodontist deals with abnormalities related to the development of the teeth and jaws. This includes problems with the ways the jaws fit together or 'malocclusion', crooked teeth or overcrowding.

    They use a variety of corrective devices or braces to reposition misaligned teeth. These braces straighten crooked or protruding teeth by means of small movements over a period of time which pulls the teeth into their correct position.

    Examples of orthodontic problems include:

  • Impaction
  • Upper and lower teeth do not match (asymmetry)
  • Too much spacing between the teeth (opposite to overcrowding).
  • Irregular teeth
  • Find out more about the various types of braces, e.g. Invisalign, in the dentistry specialisms section.

    Prosthodontists

    A prosthodontist carries out restorative work to repair a dental or facial deformity such as missing teeth, congenital defect or trauma caused by an accident or injury.

    They are highly skilled professionals with expertise in both simple and complex restorations. A prosthodontist will fit dental implants and the replacement tooth; dentures; crowns, bridges and veneers. All of these work on a practical and aesthetic level.

    Find out more about prosthodontics procedures in the dentistry specialisms section.

    Periodontists

    Periodontists focus on the diagnosis and treatment of periodontitis - an advanced form of gum disease which can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. They will also insert dental implants as a replacement for missing teeth.

    Find out more about dental implants and other treatments carried out by periodontists in the dentistry specialisms section.

    Oral and maxillofacial surgeons

    These highly trained, skilled professionals link the fields of dentistry and medicine together. They treat a wide range of conditions of the teeth, jaws and face and due to the complex nature of these, work in conjunction with other dentists.

    An oral and maxillofacial surgeon will treat:

  • Cleft palate and other congenital deformities
  • Impacted wisdom teeth
  • Jaw problems, e.g. temporomandibular joint disorder
  • Advanced gum disease
  • Facial injury, e.g. fractured jaw
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Oral cancer
  • Restorative work, e.g. dental implants
  • They may also carry out plastic surgery procedures on patients who have suffered a facial/oral injury as a result of severe trauma.

    Find out more about the work of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in the dentistry specialisms section.

    Work options for dentists

    Dentists in the UK work in either the NHS or the private sector although some do both.

    Fees for NHS treatment are set nationally but those for private treatment vary between clinics.

    Find out more about NHS dentistry and private dentistry.