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Types Of Dentists And What They Do

Updated: Jun 20

There are 10 different types of dentists in the dentistry field and they are all teeth doctors but they specialize in different tooth procedures. Depending on the type of procedure that you need, it may be prudent for you to seek out specific type of dentist since they are the expert for that tooth treatment within their respective field. The reason is because you want to receive the best and most optimal care for your teeth.

Broken silver filling
Broken silver filling

The types of dentists:

General Dentist

A general dentist is your primary oral healthcare provider and everyone should have a general dentist because they are the point of contact for all of the other dental specialties in case you need them. They will take care of all of your oral health needs such as preventative, restorative, and even some specialty procedures as well.

Here is a list of common procedures that your general dentist does:

Some general dentists will also offer specialty procedures such as extractions and root canals but that depends on the specific provider's skills. Some dentists like to refer out these procedures to specialists but some providers that are in more rural areas, may not have the luxury to refer to a specialist since they may be the only dentist within a 50 mile radius.

The field of dentistry is very wide so some general dentists can be broken down into two further subcategories.

  • Family dentistry. A family dentist places emphasis on treating the entire family, which means adults, children, and even geriatric patients as well. Some dentists with just the general dentist category may avoid treating children so if you have kids, you may want to look specifically for a "family dentist".

  • Cosmetic dentistry. A cosmetic dentist will focus mainly on cosmetic procedures such as full mouth veneers and teeth whitening. For big cosmetic dentist practices, they skip most of the general dentistry procedures and only do the veneers.

Everyone will always need a general dentist but they may not always need a dental specialist as a part of their oral healthcare team. This makes your general dentist the most important one on the list. We hope that our team of long island city dentists can be a part of your team!

Pediatric Dentist

A pediatric dentist is the general dentist equivalent for children and adolescents, serving as their primary provider for their oral health needs. They specialize on seeing pediatric patients and will not provide care for adults so all of the children's parents will need to find a general dentist.

Here is a list of common procedures that your pediatric dentist does:

  • Teeth cleanings

  • Fluoride treatments

  • Primary teeth extractions

  • Baby root canals and stainless steel crowns

  • Cavity fillings and teeth bondings

Our LIC dentists recommend that you should find a pediatric dentist if you do have children because they offer a better dental experience as compared to a family dentist. Pediatric dental offices have pediatric dental chairs and the office is typically designed with a lot of toys and gadgets that appeal to children. The toy-like experience encourages the children to cooperate and return for their routine dental visits.


An orthodontist is a teeth straightening dental specialist that uses braces, Invisalign, or some other type of clear aligners to give you a perfect straight smile. They will not do any teeth cleanings or fix your cavities so you will still need a general dentist while you're undergoing orthodontic treatment.

Here is a list of common procedures that your orthodontist does:

  • Braces

  • Invisalign or clear aligners

  • Retainers


A periodontist is the gum specialist, who will help treat advanced stages of gum disease called periodontitis. They will do teeth cleanings but also more complex surgical gum treatments, which your regular dentist will not do. They will do everything related to your gums.

Here is a list of common procedures that your periodontist does:

  • Teeth cleanings and deep teeth cleanings

  • Gum surgery or Osseous surgery

  • Gum grafting and bone grafting

  • Tooth removal

  • Dental implants


An endodontist is a root canal specialist and they specialize in removing the tooth nerve and then filling the canal back in. Since the root canals are near microscopic, endodontists will usually work under a dental microscope that can zoom in 30-40x so that they can fully visualize your tooth nerve.

Here is a list of common procedures that your endodontist does:

  • Root canals for front teeth, back teeth, and molars

  • Apicoectomy - root removals

  • Retreating root canals and post removals


A prosthodontist is a prosthetic specialist focusing on complex crown and bridge cases along with dentures. They are the specialist for treating full mouth reconstruction cases where they restore a lot of missing and broken teeth. They will take on cases that your general dentist may find too difficult to complete.

Here is a list of common procedures that your prosthodontist does:

  • Full mouth dental crowns and bridges

  • Full mouth veneers

  • Full mouth implant cases

  • Complex dentures cases

The prosthodontist can handle the most complex cases but their fees are typically much higher than a regular dentist. It all depends on what you need.

Oral Surgeon

An oral surgeon specializes in all surgical procedures for the mouth but they are the most known for removing wisdom teeth. Despite their notoriety for extracting wisdom teeth, they will also place dental implants to help you restore teeth. Most people are unaware that oral surgeons will also do orthognathic surgery where they fix broken jaws.

Here is a list of common procedures that your oral surgeon does:

  • Wisdom teeth removal

  • Dental implants

  • Orthognathic surgery

  • TMJ surgery

  • Repair broken jaws or facial bones

Oral Pathologist

An oral pathologist is a dental specialist focusing on all pathological cases of oral origins. They will biopsy soft tissue and hard tissue lesions on their own or work in conjunction with an oral surgeon. They are one of the core members of an oral cancer treating team. They are adept at laboratory work to identify biopsy specimens and make definitive diagnoses.

Here is a list of common procedures that your oral pathologist does:

  • Biopsy of soft and hard tissue lesions

  • Laboratory work

  • Oral cancer

Orofacial Pain Specialist

An orofacial pain specialist is a very rare dental specialist with only 25 licensed individuals in 2021 according to the ADA. They treat rare conditions such as TMJ disorders and generalized unexplainable pain coming from your mouth and face. Your dentist will give you a referral to one, if they are unable to identify where your pain is coming from. Sometimes the pain could be of facial nerve origins.

Here is a list of common procedures that your orofacial pain specialist does:

  • TMJ disorders

  • Oral facial nerve pains

Dental Anesthesiologist

A dental anesthesiologist is a dentist who has received additional training in anesthesia in order to provide sedation for dental patients undergoing complex dental procedures. Their services may be required in non-complex procedures as well such as for dental phobic patients. Patients with dental phobia may not be able to complete routine procedures while conscious and will need to be under sedation.

Here is a list of common procedures that your dental anesthesiologist does:

  • Conscious sedation

  • Nitrous oxide

  • General anesthesia


What is the most common type of dentist?

The most common type of dentist would be a general dentist, making up 78.9% of all dentists in 2021. The other 9 types of dentists make up 21.1% of all dentists.

Chart of the breakdown of the types of dentist in 2021:


General Dentist


Pediatric Dentist








Oral Surgeon




Oral Pathologist


Orofacial Pain


Dental Anesthesiologist


Which field is best in dentistry?

A dentist is the highest position that one can achieve, it is the last step in the career ladder but which specialty of dentistry is "the best" would depend on what the individual enjoys doing.

If you like doing specific procedures then you may want to specialize but if you want to do a little bit of everything and be able to establish a long term relationship with your patients, then being a general dentist is the best for you.

Our dentists in long island city value that long term relationship, which is why we are all general dentists!



David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

Association Memberships:

Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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