General dentists are the main providers of dental care to people of all ages. At a routine visit to your family dentist, you will probably have a thorough examination of your mouth (including teeth, gums, and other structures), a professional cleaning, and a discussion about your dental (and overall) health. If your exam reveals the presence of tooth decay, you will probably also have a filling in the affected tooth. Yet these procedures, while common, are hardly the only services your general dentist provides.
There are an estimated 143,000 dentists practicing in North America, and almost 80 percent are general dentists. Unlike specialists, who are mostly focused on a particular aspect of dental care, general dentists provide a wide array of dental services that are vital to your continued health.
Teaching children about the importance of preventive dentistry can help them maintain a healthy smile for life. Children should have their first dental visit by the time they get their first tooth or reach their first birthday, then every six months thereafter. Dental checkups are also a good time for parents to "check in" -- a family dentist can review your children's brushing habits and offer oral health care tips to help prevent childhood dental diseases, such as baby bottle tooth decay. Dental sealants are often used on younger children to protect them from tooth decay. X-rays are also routinely used during checkups to detect cavities. If your child has a dental cavity, don't be discouraged! Caught early, a dental cavity can be treated with a tooth filling to help keep your child's teeth healthy for years to come.
Changing bodies mean changing mouths! Entering the teen years can mean the need for wisdom teeth extractions -- and dental braces are practically a rite of passage for most teenagers. There are several types of dental braces available to fit your individual style, from colored brackets to porcelain dental braces to Invisalign™. A tooth extraction or dental braces may not require a referral to a dental specialist, as many family dentistry practices now offer these procedures in-house. While most teens care about their appearance, their teeth might not be the first thing on their minds. Regular dental care is especially important during this time to remove decay-causing dental plaque and tartar and correct any existing dental problems. Untreated tooth decay can result in some very grown-up dental problems, including a root canal or dental abscess.
A whole new set of dental problems could be waiting for you as you enter adulthood. While adults may not be as prone to cavities as their younger counterparts, their chances of developing gum disease greatly increase with age. From scaling and root planning to laser gum surgery, family dentistry practices offer many gum disease treatment options to treat gingivitis and periodontal disease. Years of wear and tear can also cause damage to adult mouths. A large filling may need to be replaced with a dental inlay, dental onlay or dental crown to help protect the tooth from breakage. While a dental bridge was once the only way to permanently replace missing teeth, dental implants have become a common procedure in family dentistry offices. And no adult dental checkup is complete these days without an oral cancer screening!
When it comes to aging mouths, dentures are no longer the norm. Thanks to modern technology, many seniors are keeping their teeth longer. While keeping your natural teeth for a lifetime is an excellent goal to achieve, tooth preservation has presented new challenges in family dentistry. Seniors are at high risk for dental cavities, receding gums, dry mouth and tooth root decay.
Many family dentists are changing their practices to accommodate the growing need for senior dental care and Dr. Whitaker is no exception. If you're entering your golden years, ask your family dentist for fluoride treatments to help prevent tooth decay and protect you from tooth sensitivity. If you have dexterity problems, your family dentist can offer advice to make your oral hygiene routine easier.