A dentist is a healthcare provider who diagnoses and treats oral health conditions. Taking good care of your teeth and gums can help you reduce your risk for other serious health conditions, like heart disease and stroke. You should visit a dentist regularly for routine exams and cleanings.
A dentist — sometimes called a general dentist or family dentist — is a healthcare provider who diagnoses and treats oral health conditions. Dentists help keep your teeth and gums healthy with regular dental check-ups and cleanings. They can also perform a variety of oral health treatments, including dental fillings, crowns and bridges.
Yes. Dentists are doctors because they undergo extensive medical training. In the United States, a person who wants to become a dentist must receive an undergraduate degree and complete four years of focused training in an accredited dental school.
The extent of training is similar in other countries, as well — even though titles may differ. For example, in the United Kingdom, people refer to dentists as dental surgeons and traditionally use the title Mr., Miss or Mrs., though some may use Dr.
If you live in the U.S., you may see two different titles following a dentist’s name:
If you see either of these titles, it means that your dentist graduated from an accredited dental school. A DDS and DMD receive the same amount of training and can perform the same dental procedures.
Dentists can treat a wide range of conditions affecting your teeth, gums, jaws and other areas of your mouth. They offer treatments in:
Dentists offer preventive dentistry to protect your teeth and gums from disease-causing bacteria, stopping issues before they start. Preventive treatments include:
Dentists also perform restorative procedures to repair or replace damaged or missing teeth. Restorative dentistry treatments include:
Many dentists offer 24/7 emergency dental care. Emergency treatments include:
For routine care, such as dental exams and cleanings, you should schedule visits at intervals recommended by your dentist. Most people can maintain optimal oral health with proper at-home oral hygiene and professional cleanings every six months. But if you’re prone to cavities or gum disease, you may benefit from more frequent visits. Ask your dentist about a cleaning schedule that works best for you.
A dentist helps you maintain the health of your teeth and gums. But there are also dental specialists who focus on treating very specific issues. After graduating from a four-year dental school, these specialists undergo two to three years of additional education and training in their field of choice.
There are many areas of focus that a dentist may choose to pursue, including:
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You should see a dentist any time you develop new or concerning symptoms. Schedule a dental appointment if you have:
In addition, remember to visit your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings. These appointments help your dentist detect and treat issues before they worsen — saving you time, worry and money in the long run.
Board certification by the American Board of General Dentistry means that a dentist commits themselves to excellence in their field. Following graduation from a four-year dental school, a dentist who wishes to become certified must pass rigorous testing that includes written, oral and clinical exams.
Dental anxiety is very real. Some people even avoid necessary dental care due to fear. If you’re nervous about visiting the dentist, tell your provider. Many dentists offer sedation options to keep you comfortable during procedures.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A dentist is your primary dental care provider. They can help keep your teeth and gums healthy. In addition to regular visits to your dentist, be sure to practice good oral hygiene at home. For decades, healthcare providers have recognized the ever-present connection between oral health and whole-body health. If infection is present in your mouth, then it’s present in the rest of your body, too. In addition to protecting yourself against cavities and gum disease, visiting your dentist regularly gives you the best chance for living a long and healthy life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/15/2022.
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