Question for Dr Emma - "Specialists"

Dental Health

Dr. Emma

Q&A With Dr Emma

Hi Dr Emma, I'm due to undergo some major dental work with a couple of different specialists, but I'm not actually sure what the difference is between Endodontic, Periodontic and normal dentistry. Please could you explain it to me? Thanks, Dawn from Craigie.  Dawn from Craigie, WA.

Dear Dawn,

There are currently 13 dental specialties approved for registration by the Dental Board of Australia. A dental specialist is a general dentist who has then undertaken additional postgraduate study in the field of their specialty, which is usually in the form of a masters or doctorate program. It's like how medical doctors may study to specialise in dermatology, cardiology, obstetrics, etc. A practitioner cannot be registered as a specialist and a general dentist at the same time. As such, a dental specialist is restricted to only providing care within their field.

The current approved dental specialties are:
  • Dento-maxillofacial radiology
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Oral medicine
  • Oral pathology
  • Oral surgery
  • Orthodontics
  • Paediatric dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Public health dentistry
  • Special needs dentistry
  • Forensic odontology

What a mouthful! A general dentist will usually refer to a specialist (or two!), once a case becomes too complex for him/her to manage. Each specialist can only provide care within their field, so your general dentist still has a very important role to play in the general maintenance and care of your mouth.

In your case, you'll be seeing two very different specialists. A periodontist works to care for the supporting structures of the teeth. Peri meaning "around", and odont meaning "teeth". It's a gross simplification of a very complex field, but from a layman's perspective a periodontist looks after gums. 

An endodontist specialises in the inside of teeth,  endo meaning "within or inner". As such, they are experts in diseases of the dental pulp. A lot of an endodontist's work involves root canal therapy.

Sometimes a periodontist and an endodontist will be working to save the same tooth. One from the outside, and one from the inside! By referring you to the appropriate dental specialists, your general dentist is ensuring you're getting the best possible care for your specific dental needs. I wish you all the best for your treatment.

If you would like further information on this topic visit my blog article "Specialty Dentistry" which explores a range of key specialties, including the core differences and the important roles they play in our long term dental healthcare.


Dr Emma

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Important: This article is general advice only. For further advice or information on this topic, please consult your health professional.


Category:Dental Health


Sean Simons posted at 12:59 AM 08-Apr-2015

This is a really comprehensive look at the specialty dentistry field. I know that I hear a lot of different kinds of "dontists" out there, and I am always confused at who does what. Thank you for covering what they have to do to specialise in that field as well. I know that in some industries, specialty is simply a function of experience. It is good to know that they actually had to undergo additional training.

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