Should I See a Dental Specialist?

Your dentist and a dental specialist often provide some of the very same treatment options. For instance, you can get dental implants from your general practitioner, oral surgeon, or periodontist. Or if you need to have a wisdom tooth extraction you can see your family dentist or an oral surgeon. Thinking of Invisalign? Your dentist or an orthodontist can both provide convenient access to the invisible orthodontics.

So how do you know when you need to visit a specialist as opposed to continuing to see your general dental practitioner?


General Practitioners vs. Dental Specialist

 First, you’ll want to have a firm grasp as to what differentiates a dentist from a specialist.


A general dentist is a comprehensive practitioner who offers all or most oral health services within their practices. Specialists, on the other hand, only perform a certain aspect of dentistry, such as endodontics (root canals), oral surgery, orthodontics, pedodontics (children’s dentistry), and periodontics (gum health). As a specialist, these dentists have an additional 2-3 years of education in a specific aspect of care; they no longer perform comprehensive dental services but instead provide expert advice for situations involving advanced care needs or unique cases that may be better served outside of a general dental office.



Does it Affect the Cost of Your Care?


It depends. Many of the costs are already contracted with your specific dental insurance carrier, so they will be the same usual fees for that procedure in another office. A dental specialist may need to charge an additional consultation fee, take extra X-rays or scans if the previous ones are not appropriate, or have slightly higher fees to cover the operating costs of more extensive investments they’ve made in their practice.


Many specialists’ offices will also have contracting fees with surgical centers or anesthesiologists (for general anesthesia or IV sedation) for specific procedures. For obvious reasons, those types of services will typically cost a bit more than if you were to have the procedure completed with your general practitioner under a lighter level of sedation.



The Dental Specialist Referral Process


Depending on which type of dental specialist you’re looking for and the type of insurance you carry, you may be able to call their office directly.


Otherwise, most people prefer to start with their general practitioner. If there is a situation that is outside of their scope of care, they can arrange to have all of your imaging (digital X-rays and intraoral pictures) along with supporting records transferred to a specialist for their opinion. In that case, you would then call their office to request a consultation to discuss the case further. Once the treatment is completed, you then return to your general practitioner’s office for ongoing comprehensive care.



Training and Experience of Your Provider


If you have a particularly challenging or unique care case, the training and experience of your dental provider is important. Specialists will be able to provide therapies in less-predictable scenarios that reach beyond the scope of a family dentist. However, many general practitioners still continue to advance their training in specific services by taking ongoing professional courses throughout their career. Although they may not be a licensed specialist, they still have the years of experience and firsthand knowledge as to how to provide quality care in those situations.



What is a Cosmetic Dentist?


Are you looking for the best cosmetic dentist in Raleigh? Of the several types of dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association, Cosmetic Dentistry is not one of them. Rather, cosmetic dentists are general practitioners who excel in artistic and aesthetic treatment procedures such as ceramic crowns, porcelain veneers, and other smile enhancing techniques. Incorporating cosmetic dentistry into your comprehensive care is a way of delivering dentistry, rather than a specific type of specialty. There are specific organizations that cosmetic dentists can join, but these groups differ a bit from the formal specialty organizations approved by the ADA, which are responsible for dictating credentials related to board certifications.



Technology Available


More often than not, general dentists refer their patients to specific specialists because they do not have the technological resources available to provide certain types of care. For instance, dental implant therapy or root canal treatments may require special tools or 3D imaging that a general office has yet to invest in. Yet the specialist requires them day after day, making it simpler for some practitioners to refer their patients to the specialty office.


One of the things that’s unique about Raleigh Dental Arts is that our practice is equipped with the state-of-the-art technology that we need to provide these more advanced procedures. Rather than referring routine services to another provider due to a lack of resources, we can complete the patient’s care with a team they already know and trust.



Which Services are Offered?


Every dentist has their own preferences when it comes to techniques, technology, and treatments. Some may find that since children are a bit more unpredictable (they may be squirmy or anxious) they might prefer to automatically refer younger patients to a pediatric dentist in town for something like a routine filling. Or if a dentist enjoys root canal treatments, they may take pride in accepting especially challenging cases where there are re-treatments, twisted roots, or an extra nerve canal rather than sending them to an endodontist.


On the flip side, a specialist will only provide treatments related to their specialty. If they’re an endodontist, you won’t want to call them about gum disease treatments or wisdom tooth removal. Or if they’re a periodontist you wouldn’t ask about a root canal.


Part of choosing a dentist includes vetting their practice to find out what services are offered. If you want a specific type of treatment, be sure to ask if it’s available. Your general practitioner may be especially well versed in dental implant therapy, but another family dentist down the road might not. That does not necessarily mean that you need to call a specialist to have the treatment completed.


All dentists are licensed to provide all dental services, but only some general practitioners will choose to provide them in their office.



Find Out Which Resources Are Available


There’s a correlation in the quality and comfort of your dental care and the resources and technology available within the dental office that you choose. During your initial consultation or phone call with the practice, make it a point to ask about how the treatment is performed. Are there 3D imaging tools? Microscopes? Special cameras? Rotary files? The way your provider performs the exact procedure will in turn directly affect the specific treatment you’re scheduled for.


For example, as one of the top Raleigh dental implant providers, we’ve made additional investments in implant technology and resources for ongoing implant maintenance. One such investment is a special cleansing mechanism that gently removes bacterial deposits from implants during dental cleanings, so that more abrasive powders or gels are unnecessary.


Is the Treatment Outcome Better from One or the Other?


All licensed dentists receive the same level of training on comprehensive oral care services. Some choose to further their skill in specific types of care or techniques. This additional training usually facilitates a care environment that’s more efficient (the doctor is used to providing the same type of service multiple times per day) and experience in uniquely complicated scenarios. However, standard care procedures can still be completed by general practitioners at the same level of quality without an unnecessary referral.


If you have specific questions related to before-and-after outcomes, such as dental veneers or Invisalign, you can request to see a photo gallery of cases similar to your own.



We Can Bring the Dental Specialist to You


Dental experts won’t go away anytime soon. There are specific times when seeing a specialist for your care is the only way to ensure a predictable outcome and the safest investment in your smile. When that’s the case, it can be helpful to have a general practitioner who brings the specialist to you rather than refers you out of the office.


At Raleigh Dental Arts we frequently arrange to have specialists come into our practice for more complex care cases. Our close ties with these trustworthy experts ensure the best possible experience for our patients during their oral health services. If you have a unique situation that requires extensive attention beyond that of routine care, we can bring in the attentive experts to you as needed.


Our Approach to Care


When you visit Raleigh Dental Arts, our team of experienced dental practitioners each have their own unique eye for detail and preference for specialized procedures like dental implants, Invisalign, and the like. However, we are open with our patients about the need to occasionally work with our partnering specialists for specific situations.


During your initial exam and consultation, we will be happy to answer any questions about whether your treatment needs are within our comprehensive scope of care, or if an expert may need to be called in.


Contact our Raleigh dental team today to reserve your one-on-one consultation!

Tarun Agarwal

Dr. Tarun Agarwal, DDS is considered one of the top dentists in the country. He is a recognized speaker, author, and dental leader. He has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and News 14 Carolina. Dr. Agarwal has been awarded '40 under 40' Business Leaders by the Triangle Business Journal. He is regularly invited to teach other dentists around the world and recently built a training center within the practice dedicated to sharing his expertise. Most importantly he is a loving husband and dedicated father of three wonderful children. His biggest accolade was being voted 'Best Dad in the World' by 2 of his 3 kids.