Seeing a Dental Specialist: Understanding Why & When Your Dentist Gives Referrals

If you have conditions that require advanced care, your dentist will refer you to a specialist.

If you have conditions that require advanced care, your dentist will refer you to a specialist.

If your family doctor had concerns about your heart health and referred you to a cardiologist, you wouldn’t think twice. Your family doctor treats routine issues, but the cardiologist focuses on a specific area or issue—the heart.

Similarly, your general dentist evaluates and treats routine oral health issues. If you have conditions that require advanced care, your dentist will refer you to a specialist who focuses on treating your condition.

There are dozens of dental sub-specialties, but here are the specialists you’re most likely to see:

  • Endodontists – These dental specialists focus on treating diseases and injuries of the soft inner tissue of the teeth (called pulp) or the tooth nerves. In additional to dental school, they have at least 2 years of specialized training in root canal treatment and saving teeth. According to the America Association of Endodontists, these specialists perform an average of 25 root canals each week. In comparison, general dentsits perform less than two. .
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons – Oral surgeons treat patients for a variety of reasons, including for wisdom teeth removal, tumors and cysts in jaws, and facial injuries. They are trained in a hospital-based residency program for at least four years and their training focuses on the bone, skin and muscle of the face, mouth and jaw.
  • Orthodontists – Orthodontists are the experts when it comes to straightening teeth and aligning jaws, and you’ll definitely be referred to one if you need braces. In addition to dental school, these “bite doctors” have an additional 2-3 years of specialized study in orthodontics.
  • Periodontists – These specialists focus on treating gums and the supporting bones—your teeth—so they’re experts in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.

If you’re referred to a specialist, don’t panic. A referral is the general dentist’s way of saying, “Your health and well-being are more important to me, so I’m putting you in the best hands possible to handle this procedure. Here’s who I trust and think would do the best job for you.”

Here are the next steps if you’re referred to a specialist:

  • First, research the specialist you were referred to. The Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners can give you general information regarding a dentist’s license and education.
  • Next, make sure they’re a participating Delta Dental dentist, and in the same network as your general dentist. You can look that up here.
  • Then, log in to the Member Connection to verify your plan benefits.
  • Finally, call and make an appointment.

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3 Responses to “Seeing a Dental Specialist: Understanding Why & When Your Dentist Gives Referrals”

  1. Dr. Joe Tagliarini
    12/30/2014 at 10:06 am #

    A specialist just has the skills and tools needed to take your oral health to the next level! You wouldn’t assume a car mechanic can fix an airplane, even though they are both machines, because the fine details make all the difference!

  2. teeth specialist doctor →
    07/07/2017 at 2:02 am #

    I always like to visit your site about this information, it very useful to us and amazing. You made a good site it very help us.Thank you so much for sharing the best information and instructions they amazing.

    • Caroline Jacobson →
      07/10/2017 at 8:22 am #

      Thank you for your kind words and for being a devoted reader!

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