When it comes to dentistry, there are numerous specialties in addition to general dentistry. While some dentists, like Dr. Sharma, help patients focus on their overall oral health, others specialize in a specific area of dentistry. Endodontists are just one example of this. Take a closer look at the difference between a dentist and an endodontist, including when you need to see each one.
Endodontists Are a Type of Dentist
All endodontists are dentists who can practice general dentistry but instead chose to undergo additional training to specialize.
This involves another two to three years of training on top of all the requirements to become a general dentist. Dentists complete four years of undergraduate study followed by four years of graduate school in dentistry. That graduate school covers time in the classroom and the lab. Then, the last two years are spent primarily treating patients under the supervision of a licensed dental teaching school.
On top of that, endodontists need to gain another two or three years of practical experience, with some additional classroom experience included. This extra education focuses on studying diseases that affect the dental pulp, including diagnosis and treatment.
What They Focus On
General dentists do not have a specific focus. Their primary goal is to promote overall oral health. This is who you will see for dental cleanings, cracked teeth, and more.
Endodontists specialize in the diagnosis of tooth pain and performing procedures on the interior of the tooth. One of the procedures they most commonly perform is a root canal.
Types of Services You Can Expect
There is some overlap between dentists and endodontists when it comes to the types of services you can expect. For example, either can perform root canals. The difference is that the typical dentist performs root canals a handful of times a week while endodontists perform several each day. The American Association of Endodontists estimates that the average dentist performs two root canals per week while endodontists perform 25.
This focus on treatments like root canals means that endodontists do not offer many of the services that you would get from a dentist. For example, you would not see an endodontist for a filling nor to have your teeth cleaned. They also have training in these functions, but they do not perform them to focus on their specialization.
Another unique aspect of endodontology is that endodontists are experts in pain management. They use a range of specialized techniques, including having access to more numbing medications available than most dentists. This can be helpful for people who cannot typically get numb from the most common medications.
For a better idea of how dentists and endodontists are different, compare a quick list of some of the responsibilities and treatments each offer.
- Clean teeth
- Whiten teeth
- Remove teeth
- Provide anesthetics during procedures
- Take and analyze X-rays
- Create models to use in dental appliances
- Take and analyze X-rays
- Give anesthetic before procedures
- Manage tooth injuries
- Repair teeth
- Prescribe medications following procedures
- Perform root canals and retreatments of root canals
Endodontists typically focus on preserving a patient’s teeth. Dentists evaluate each patient individually and use their expertise to decide if it is best for the patient to preserve their teeth with a root canal procedure or if extraction coupled with implants, bridges, dentures, or another solution is ideal.
Both dentists and endodontists stay up to date with the latest technology. That said, it is common for endodontists to use more advanced technology than dentists. For example, they are more likely to use 3D imaging, radiographs, and dental operating microscopes.
It is important to note that this varies greatly by practice and professional. Many dentists also use this high level of technology as well.
The out-of-pocket costs to visit a dentist or endodontist will always depend on your insurance coverage. If you do not account for insurance, visiting an endodontist will typically be more expensive than visiting a dentist. This comes from their additional education and training, along with their specialization.
How Often You See a Dentist and an Endodontist
Everyone should see their dentist for regular cleanings and checkups at least twice per year. This is true regardless of age. The only exception is that people with less healthy mouths may need to see their dentist three or even four times a year.
By contrast, not everyone needs to see an endodontist at some point in their lives. It will depend entirely on their oral health and whether they experience any condition that requires the attention of an endodontist. Some people may never need to see an endodontist, while others have to see them frequently as recommended by their general dentist.
When to See a Dentist and an Endodontist
If you just need to take care of your regular dental checkup, you should visit a dentist. You will also want to visit a dentist to fill cavities, treat cracked teeth, get dentures, have your teeth whitened, etc.
If you need a root canal, you can see either a dentist or an endodontist. It will come down to personal preference. Dentists are more than capable of performing root canals without any issues as they are well-trained in doing so. However, endodontists have more experience performing them. This is enough of a reason for some people to opt to visit an endodontist in Lincoln Park instead. If you are dealing with extreme tooth pain, then you may need to see an endodontist.
A good rule of thumb is to visit your dentist first. Dr. Sharma can let you know whether an endodontist will be able to offer you more treatment options.