Dentist FAQs

  • Introduction

    Dentists are medical professionals who diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions that occur with the teeth, oral mucosa, and disorders of the jaw, such as TMJ. There are several areas of dentistry that include orthodontics, pediatric, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and cosmetics.

    People visit the dentist for basic wellness check-ups and exams, dental treatments for issues such as gum disease and periodontitis, and restorative cosmetic procedures. Dentists help patients with various issues, ranging from filling cavities and straightening teeth with braces to tooth extractions and treatment for conditions such as bruxism, also known as teeth grinding.

    When left untreated, conditions such as cavities and damaged or cracked teeth can lead to abscesses and infections, and dentists help by treating and preventing further damage.
  • Is it safe to go to the dentist?

    It's safe to go to the dentist, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the strict infection control guidelines that dentists have followed for many decades. At all times, dentists follow ADA and CDC protocols to ensure patient safety.

  • When should a baby go to the dentist?

    The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises parents to schedule the first dental visit within six months of the first tooth erupting and one year of age for all infants. Babies should also visit the dentist for emergencies, such as cracked or broken teeth.

  • Why does a child need sealants?

    Pediatric dental sealants are applied to the teeth to work as a barrier and provide protection from decay and bacteria. Sealants also work to prevent small food particles from settling in the grooves of the teeth, which can lead to the development of cavities.

  • Can you go to the dentist while pregnant?

    It's safe for women to continue with regular dental visits while pregnant. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can affect the gums and teeth, leading to inflammation and gingivitis. Regular cleanings and checkups can help keep hormonal dental issues at bay.

  • How do dentists pull teeth?

    Dentists pull teeth through simple and surgical extractions. Simple extractions are performed at the dentist's office with local anesthetic and forceps. Surgical removal is required for broken teeth and teeth that have not erupted, such as wisdom teeth. Surgical procedures require stronger anesthetic or sedation, and forceps are used to remove the teeth.

  • What kind of dentists are there? 

    There are seven primary areas of dentistry.

    1. General dentistry covers a wide scope, with procedures ranging from general exams and X-rays to deep cleanings and simple extractions.
    2. Pedodontists, or pediatric dentists, have a primary focus on infants and children.
    3. Orthodontists handle braces and other procedures that straighten the teeth.
    4. Periodontists treat the gums and structures that support the teeth, such as bone and ligaments.
    5. Endodontists perform dental pulp treatments, such as root canals.
    6. Oral pathologists, or oral surgeons, focus on surgical procedures that include wisdom teeth extraction and dental implants.
    7. Prosthodontists handle highly complex restorative dental procedures, including bridge and denture placements. 

  • Can dentists prescribe medication? 

    Dentists are licensed to prescribe various medications to treat and prevent infections and aid in pain management following procedures. Common medications dentists prescribe include broad-spectrum penicillin, including amoxicillin and ampicillin, and pain medications, such as Tylenol with codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.

  • When will a dentist decide to pull a tooth?

    While recommended procedures vary depending on patient specifics, a dentist will pull a tooth that is broken off at the gum line or severely damaged. Additionally, impacted teeth, most commonly wisdom teeth, require extractions to prevent crowding, repeated infections, and pain.

  • What type of dentist does root canals?

    The type of a dentist that performs root canals is an endodontist. Endodontists are highly trained and skilled in diagnosing conditions that require root canal procedures. A general dentist can also provide root canal treatments; however, they typically refer patients to endodontists.

  • How often should you visit the dentist?

    It's generally recommended to visit the dentist every six months to a year for exams and cleanings. However, patients may require additional visits for certain treatments, such as periodontal maintenance, deep cleanings, adjustment of braces, cosmetic procedures, or follow-up exams.

  • How much do dentists make?

    On average, dentists in the United States make approximately $199,363.00 annually. Specific earnings can vary, based on factors such as geographical location, private practice versus working for another dentist, patient bases, and the amount of dental practices in each region.

  • How long does it take to become a dentist?

    It typically takes between six and eight years to become a licensed, practicing dentist. Dental students start their educations in four-year undergraduate programs before starting dental school, which requires another four years of education. Factors such as dental school application results and additional schooling for double majors can also affect the time between starting school and becoming a dentist.

  • Do dentists go to med school?

    Dentists don't go to medical school to obtain their dental credentials. They typically complete four-year undergraduate programs then move on to dental school. The curriculum is similar in medical and dental schools for the first two years of the program, and dentists who plan on practicing oral surgery can get MD degrees through medical-integrated dental programs.

  • Is a dentist a doctor?

    A dentist with a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree or a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree is considered a doctor in his or her field, but not considered a medical doctor or physician. DMD and DDS dentists are licensed to perform surgical procedures and prescribe medications.

  • What is the difference between DDS and DMD?

    DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery, and DMD stands for Doctor of Dental Medicine or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry. While the titles are different, the degrees are actually the same, and both DMD and DDS dentists graduated from accredited dental schools. Students seeking DDS and DMD degrees are required to follow the same educational curriculums.

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