Why specialists play an important role in dental care

Nov. 3, 2022

This paid piece is sponsored by Siouxland Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

This month’s article is focused on the role of specialists in dentistry. Many people do not realize there are specialties in dentistry, just like there are in medicine. Most times you will see your general dentist for care, but sometimes you will need to see a specialist who limits his or her practice to one aspect of dentistry.

To become a dental specialist, an individual needs to complete an additional two to six years, depending on the specialty, matriculated in a residency training at a CODA-approved dental school, where they are under the supervision of full-time faculty. Following the successful completion of a residency program, specialists receive a certificate of specialty training. Although not required to practice as a specialist, some specialists sit for a written exam and oral defense of their knowledge called a board exam or board certification, which then gives them the designation of being board certified or a diplomate of a board of their respective specialty.

Currently there are 12 recognized specialties in dentistry; additionally, there are some that are just developing but have not been recognized as specialties. The 12 recognized specialties are dental anesthesiology, public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral medicine, orofacial pain, orthodontics, pediatrics, periodontology and prosthodontics.

As of the writing of this, implantology has not been recognized as an official specialty in the United States, even though you may see or hear claims to that effect. Several two-year residencies in implantology exist; however, these residencies have not caught on to a large extent, likely because many dental specialists as well as general practice dentists place implants.

Dental specialists are not required to become board certified in their respective specialty. There are many reasons many specialists choose to become board certified, such as hospital privileges or academic bona fides. Specialists almost always limit their practice to treating patients only within their specialty, which is exactly how our medical colleagues practice. Specialization gives a practitioner the ability to be excellent and efficient at a few things.

If you had twin doctors, which twin do you think would be better at executing care in their specialty? The twin that limited their practice to that field, of course.

When a specialist is required, your general dentist often will refer you to a specialist, and it is also common for patients to call a specialist directly and request a consultation. South Dakota has wonderful, capable dental professionals who deliver excellent quality dental care. Similar to medicine, your family dentist relies on the expertise of specialists to get you the best care you need. For instance, if you tore your ACL and saw your family practice doctor for the initial diagnosis, you would not accept that your family practice doctor would repair the ACL. A timely referral to orthopedic surgery would be the right course of action. In the same manner, if your dental diagnosis or problem falls into the one of the 12 specialties listed above, you should at least have a meaningful talk with your dentist about what is within their training and when to refer to a specialist.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard to locate a dental specialist. You need to know that there are dental specialists in South Dakota, and you can call the South Dakota Dental Association to find a specialist near you. It’s important to call the SDDA because the internet and advertisements have a habit of stating all kinds of qualifications while the SDDA lists who is and who is not a specialist.

Siouxland Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery offers a team of board-certified specialists to meet your needs — oral surgery by oral surgeons. To learn more about Siouxland Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, go to siouxlandoralsurgery.com.


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