01 Apr These 3 Dental Specialists Are More Important Than You Thought
A practice full of specialists is a one-stop shop for having a beautiful and healthy smile, where everything can be done under one roof. But not all dental practices are full of specialists.
Broadly speaking, there are three different types of dental practices. One type are general practices with practitioners that carry out general dentistry such as diagnosing and treating gum disease, offering treatments for missing teeth, and fitting dentures. The second are single specialty practices that focus on one niche, such as teeth straightening, and the third type, like London Dental Specialists, are multidisciplinary. Multidisciplinary dentists treat all sorts of patients with all sorts of problems, and they’re equipped to handle all of them.
Why is having a team of specialists so important?
The main reason it is so beneficial to go to a practice that has specialists from multiple disciplines is, quite simply, because of communication. Most patients, whether they’re undergoing a procedure as simple as a single implant or as complex as a reconstruction, require the input of at least two specialists from different areas. In these cases, how will you know that those two specialists are working together as efficiently as possible?
When you visit a practice that is focused on one speciality, they may have to consult other external professionals. When these specialists have not worked together before or are not part of the same team, there is greater risk of friction or miscommunication. There isn’t the interpersonal relationship which is so crucial for providing you with that healthy, beautiful smile.
For example, many hospital services are full of professionals who have specialised in different backgrounds. They’re designed around multidisciplinary teams. You know as well as I do that when those teams are not communicating with one another across different specialities, patients suffer. The same exists in dentistry.
Wouldn’t it be better to be in a practice where there are multiple inhouse specialists who can communicate with one another and enjoy each other’s company? The personal relationship between your service providers is what is going to create the most wonderful treatment plan to care for you.
What are the different roles within a multidisciplinary practice?
There are many areas a dentist can specialise in, and none should be overlooked as being less important than the others. At London Dental Specialists, we are fortunate enough to be made up of professionals in many different areas of expertise.
Let’s break down what those roles are and how they contribute to patient outcomes:
Peri, from Ancient Greek “περί”, “peri” meaning “about, around”.
Odonto, from Ancient Greek “odṓn”, “odont” meaning “tooth.”
A periodontist – like myself – creates the foundations of a healthy mouth, whether that be ensuring that the gums are correct or that we have decent dental implants. In Ancient Greek, “peri” means “around” and “odont” means tooth. Periodontists work outside the root of the tooth and supporting structures. Periodontists are crucial in treating periodontal disease (gum disease) and installing dental implants.
Endo, a prefix from Ancient Greek “ἔνδον”, “endon” meaning “within, inner, absorbing, or containing”.
An endodontist works on the foundations alongside the periodontist, but more internally. Their job is to ensure that the internal aspects of the tooth, such as the nerve canal, are healthy. Toothache arises when the nerve canal gets infected, so the role of an endodontist is crucial in ensuring that internal aspects of the teeth don’t get infected, leading to issues down the road.
Ortho- (prefix): from the Ancient Greek “orthos” meaning “straight, erect, or proper”.
An orthodontist has a different role entirely. Their job is to move teeth from the wrong position to the right position. The movement of teeth into the right position is usually enough to create both a beautiful (because the teeth are in the right place) and healthy (because the bite is balanced) smile.
Orthodontists are also key in the fight against gum disease (stay tuned for future blog posts!) when it causes the teeth to move into a different position. The orthodontist can, where possible, move the teeth back to the correct position, which will remove or reduce the need for more potentially destructive dental implants.
- Dental therapists
Whilst not a specialist, a dental therapist, within the UK context, is a relatively new and exciting role. Many dental therapists began as hygienists, until it was realised that these roles could be expanded. It made sense for hygienists to take on more responsibilities in a practice, and ultimately to become what is now recognised as dental therapists.
Various training programmes now mean that dental therapists can, broadly speaking, carry out 60–70 per cent of the work a general dentist is trained to do. This means they can take care of dental check-ups and be a service provider for children’s teeth before they fall out.
This work covers a lot of what happens within general practices. In our specialist practice, a dental therapist is a vital role and crucial to the workings of the practice. One thing I’m particularly proud of at London Dental Specialists is that the clinical roles of all the dental professionals are clearly defined when it comes to the care of the patient. My team are experts in their niche and, importantly, are able to communicate efficiently across specialities.
Why are multidisciplinary practices so beneficial?
We could think of the relationship between a dentist and your teeth as the relationship between an architect and a building. Let’s imagine it this way: periodontists and endodontists work together to lay the building foundations and ensure that the blueprint for the smile is technically brilliant. Orthodontists are responsible for ensuring the building is structurally sound. Cosmetic dentistry is all about the painting and internal decorations. That painting and internal decoration to make the house look beautiful is going to be much easier and more lasting if the structure and groundwork has been done correctly.
When we’re talking about beautiful and healthy smiles, it’s vital that we start with the foundations. You could have a beautiful looking house, but if it hasn’t been built properly and with great care and expertise from the ground up, it might start falling apart once you’ve lived in it for a few years. When my team and I are prescribing treatment plans, it is really important to us that we have confidence our work is going to last ten plus years.
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