Many people use the terms “family dentist” and “general dentist” interchangeably, but there is actually a difference – a subtle one, but one that can be important depending on your situation.
All dentists are required to have extensive education before they can begin practicing. Schooling for dentistry typically involves 3+ years of undergraduate education plus another 4 years of dental school.
Family dentists and general dentists are similar in this way. They also perform the same procedures on their patients, like:
- Teeth whitening
- Wisdom teeth extraction
- Root canals
- Cosmetic dental work
The difference lies in what they specialize in. Unlike a general dentist, a family dentist specializes in dentistry for people of all ages – from children just starting to get their first baby teeth all the way to elderly people who need a new set of dentures.
Benefits Of Having A Family Dentist
Dental work for children, or “pediatric dentistry”, plays a large role in the benefits of family dentistry.
Children have special dental requirements because baby teeth aren’t the same as adult teeth. (For instance, baby teeth are more sensitive to decay.)
Family dentists can ensure that your child’s teeth are being properly cleaned and offer tips to parents on how to best care for them.
Some children may need dental sealants to prevent cavities. Others may simply need more frequent dental checkups and cleanings.
Nutrition and habits are also big factors. Babies risk getting cavities from:
- Too much sugar in the form of soda or sticky fruit snacks
- Nighttime bottle use
- Too much pacifier use
As children grow, they can have their dental appointments along with their parents, showing them at an early age that there is nothing to be afraid of at the dentist. (Irrational fear of dental work is something that plagues more adults than you might think.)
For adults, family dentists are convenient because they can take care of your family’s dental care all in one place.
It’s also beneficial to have a dentist that has seen you since you were a child, as they won’t be starting from scratch when you come in; they have a history of dental diagnostics to work from and a clearer understanding of your oral health and how it has changed over the years. All of this means better dental care for everyone in your family.
Family dentists, of course, also provide dentures and partials for elderly people; they can create the perfect impression of teeth for each individual, show them proper denture cleaning and maintenance, and so on.
But Wait, Can’t General Dentists Do All Of That Too?
Yes and no. General dentists practice many or all capacities in dentistry, but don’t necessarily specialize in all of them. Many general dentists don’t create dentures, for example. Many can work on your child’s teeth, but they ultimately put most of their focus on adults.
Family dentists, on the other hand, specifically work on people of all ages.
As stated above, the difference is subtle, but depending on you and your family’s needs, it can make all the difference.