What’s in a Name? Know your Different Dentists

Medical words have a reputation for being tough to pronounce–and nearly impossible for non-medical personnel to understand. This is typically because medical vocabulary uses Greek or Latin roots that seem far away from our everyday language. 

However, the proper name of something or someone can tell us a lot about what it is or what they do! For example, not every doctor who works on your mouth is a “dentist.” They may be an orthodontist, a periodontist, an endodontist…the list goes on! Let’s demystify the list and learn more: 

1. General Dentist: (DENT = tooth, IST=specialized) Specializing in teeth, a general dentist takes care of the tooth surface, providing cleanings and routine exams.

2. Orthodontist: (ORTHO = straight, IST = specialized) Orthodontists want to straighten everything out. That’s why they’re responsible for aligning teeth and jaws for comfortable, beautiful smiles.

3. Periodontist: (PERI = around, IST = specialized) What’s around the teeth? Gums! Periodontists treat gum disease, gum recession, and other gum issues, keeping the area around your teeth comfortable and healthy.  

4. Pedodontist: (PEDO = child, IST = specialized) Pedodontists typically go by the alias “pediatric dentist.” Children have different dental needs and concerns than adults, and pedodontists provide specialized care for them! 

5. Endodontist: (ENDO = within, IST = specialized) What’s inside teeth? Nerves. Lots and lots of sensitive nerves. Typically, those nerves are protected by the tooth enamel. However, if that enamel erodes or decays, the nerves are exposed and cause severe pain. Endodontists perform root canals and other procedures relating to dental nerves.

6. Prosthodontist: (PROS= in addition to, IST=specialized) Prosthetics are supplemental limbs, digits, or other devices added to a body. Similarly, prosthodontists provide all sorts of supplemental treatments (such as teeth whitening, veneers, dentures, crowns, and other cosmetic dentistry) which add to the beauty of a natural smile.  

7. Oral Surgeon: Dr. Doss, Dr. Crawford, Dr. Traub, and Dr. Mitchell are all oral surgeons. In addition to receiving their doctoral degrees from dental school and their dentistry licensure, they all served a 4-6 year surgical residency. After all this investment of time and energy, our doctors obtain their board certification and are finally able to begin practicing as licensed and certified oral surgeons.

Oral surgeons perform routine extractions as well as intricate procedures to treat oral diseases of the teeth and jaw bone. 

No matter their name, modern dentists perform invaluable work to extend the lifespan and increase the quality of life of their modern patients. Next time you visit an orthodontist, endodontist, or oral surgeon, be sure to ask what inspired them to choose their particular path of dentistry!

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