What is general dentistry?

Regular visits to your general dentist are pivotal to ensuring your mouth, teeth and gums remain healthy. However, it’s estimated over a quarter of adults in the UK only visit their dentist when a problem arises. Why do so many people put off visiting their dentist? It’s not uncommon to be nervous or anxious when visiting the dentist. Many people are also concerned about the financial aspect of treatment and regular checkups.

However, you wouldn’t be alone if the reason you do not visit your general dentist is due to a misunderstanding of how important check-ups are, what they cover and aim to achieve. In this post, we will discuss what general dentistry is and why it is so important to have routine examinations.

What is general dentistry?

General dentistry covers a range of treatment options and procedures fundamental to protecting and maintaining a good standard of oral health. Treatments are in place to keep your mouth, gums, and teeth healthy and free of pain. General dentists are often viewed in a similar way to a GP, the ultimate goal is to prevent and diagnose disease.

Services offered by general dentist which are fundamental to your oral health include;

Routine examinations

A routine examination is at the centre of creating your personal dental plan. It allows your general dentist to clearly define what treatment is necessary for your continued oral health. Sometimes referred to as a “dental check-up”, a routine examination will provide a thorough inspection of the tissues of your head and neck, jaw joints, mouth, teeth, and gums. Identifying any underlying oral health problems such as disease, tooth decay, and cancer.

A routine examination can spot early signs of any irregularities and treat them before they progress further. This is extremely important as many oral health issues are “silent” and go unnoticed.

Most routine examinations will not only involve your general dentist physically looking at your mouth but will also take pictures using X-rays to further evaluate your oral health. This is to check how your teeth line up when you bite, check for cavities, check the positioning of all your teeth and jaw, and check for any abnormalities including bone loss. X-rays will provide a more in-depth look at your situation.

It is important to note, a routine examination will not prevent oral health complications. It assesses your personal situation to build a plan to help prevent problems and improve your overall oral health.

Restorative treatment

Restorative treatment is the term given to treatment which aims to restore broken or damaged teeth to a healthier and more functional state, bringing back your smile and preventing further oral health complications.

In the case of missing teeth and severe damage, you may be referred for specialist treatment. However, for smaller repairs and minor cosmetic concerns, your general dentist will be able to provide the treatment needed. Common restorative treatments include;

Fillings

Fillings are used to treat tooth cavities and caries, which are holes in the teeth. Cavitated teeth are prone to a buildup of bacteria and if not addressed early, further complications such as infection and tooth loss could arise. Many cavities will go unnoticed and show no symptoms until they become much larger. Your general dentist will be able to spot early signs of cavities and treat them before they become problematic.

In most cases, a cavity can be treated and restored the same day it is discovered by your general dentist. Receiving a filling is a routine and painless procedure which usually takes around half an hour.

Root canal treatment

When a tooth is badly infected at its centre, a procedure known as root canal treatment (Endodontic treatment) may be performed to remove infection and restore the tooth. This can be performed by your general dentist and is a painless procedure.

Although symptoms of an infected tooth will appear, X-rays are the only way to determine if the infection is at the centre of the tooth and have affected the soft tissue known as the pulp. When the pulp is infected it cannot heal on its own and delaying treatment could result in the tooth dying. Resulting in a complete loss.

Crowns

When you have a tooth which is extensively damaged or at high risk of fracture, a traditional filling might not be sufficient to support it long term. In these situations, your general dentist might suggest a dental crown is used to restore the affected tooth. Where a filling will fill a hole in the tooth, a crown is designed to cover the damaged tooth, protecting it from further decay and damage.

Crowns are also regularly used to treat chipped teeth and restore the tooth after root canal treatment. If a crown is recommended, your general dentist will prepare the tooth for the crown to be made by a dental laboratory.

Tooth extraction

When a tooth needs to be removed fully from the mouth, a general dentist can carry this out quickly in a painless session. Although an extremely common procedure, many dentists will only remove a tooth when absolutely necessary. This is because a missing tooth can lead to further problems later in life. Such as the teeth shifting out of place.

The tooth will then be replaced with a dental prosthesis such as an implant, bridge or crown. You may be referred to someone with special interest to have this completed, such as an implantologist.

Preventive treatment

Preventive treatment is there to help you look after your oral health and prevent diseases before they arise or become too problematic. Tooth loss is more often than not caused by decay and gum disease, which can be prevented with the right treatment. Services include routine examinations and hygiene therapy treatment as well as professional cleaning and polishing.

A professional clean will involve your general dentist removing any plaque and tartar that has built up. Which is commonly known as a “scale and polish”. Build up is usually the result of poor oral hygiene or an unhealthy diet and will need to be addressed. You will be shown better brushing techniques, advice on a more suitable toothbrush and how to floss correctly to remove plaque yourself. Which will enable you to maintain your oral health at a good level and hopefully reduce the need to visit the dentist at more regular intervals.

Preventive treatment is only successful when the patient works effectively alongside their general dentist.

Cosmetic treatments

Many general dentists can offer cosmetic treatments to improve the aesthetics of your smile. Cosmetic tooth restorations such as bonding, veneers and crowns can be performed by most dentists and can give you a smile you are confident sharing with the world. Any dentist registered with the General Dental Council can also provide teeth whitening and prescribe this to be carried out by another members of the dental team, such as dental therapists and dental hygienists.

How often should I visit my general dentist?

A general rule of thumb is at least twice a year or every 6 months. However, this is not the case for everyone. During your routine examination, your dentist will tell you how often they would like to see you depending on your individual circumstances. It is always important to see a dentist if you have a damaged tooth or persistent pain.

Find out more

If you would like to find out more about our general dentistry services, book in for a consultation today. During your visit, you will have the opportunity to meet our lead general dentist, Dr Alkisti Vousvouni and explore our beautiful centre located on the North Cornwall coast.

About the author

Author

Alkisti Vousvouni graduated from Cardiff University in 2010. She has since led a diverse career, growing her skills and offering a variety of treatments to best care for her patients. She worked in the Oral and Maxillofacial Department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital where she was introduced to aspects of general medicine, facial reconstruction and complex tooth removal. She taught students at the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne, and even joined a group of doctors on a research expedition to Southern and Eastern Africa A very important part of Alkisti’s work is to ensure nervous patients of all ages feel comfortable and confident in their smiles and oral health.

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