General dentistry is the branch of medicine involving the care and prevention of oral health conditions, diseases, and disorders. A dentist’s job is to use preventative care and patient education to preclude the need for treatments and, instead, promote a healthy smile for life. Dentists are also responsible for diagnosing conditions that affect the mouth, teeth, gums, and jaws, as well as develop the most effective treatment plan with the patient’s best interests in mind.
General dentists attend and complete dental school to achieve a Doctor of Dental Surgery or a Doctor of Dental Medicine. At that time, dentists may take national and state certification exams, which prove a dentist’s proficiency to practice. Upon passing the exams, state licensure is awarded on an individual basis.
General dentists typically do not focus on any particular specialty, instead opting to provide generalized dental care to patients. In some cases, general dentists may refer a patient to a specialty provider for care or treatment that is beyond the scope of general dentistry. However, most general dentists are capable of providing complete examinations, cleanings, root canals, restorations, extractions, and tooth prosthetics.
General dentistry is best when patients use it for preventive care, rather than for corrective treatment. By visiting a dentist and his or her team of hygienists and dental technicians twice annually for cleaning and examination, patients can avoid decay and identify potential oral health conditions, such as periodontal disease, in their earliest stages.