The Common Types of Dentists Explained: A Detailed Guide

In 2019, there were over 200,000 active dentists in the US alone. That puts the ratio at 61.1 dentists per 100,000 US residents or 1 dentist to almost 1,640 patients. In addition, one in five of these active dentists carried out some form of specialization.

Despite this huge number of active dentists though, only 67.6% of US adults said they visited a dentist back in 2019. Unfortunately, putting off dental check-ups and treatments can result in bigger oral problems.

The big question now is, which types of dentists should you visit in case you run into tooth troubles? Should you go to your usual dentist or are there specific types of dental specialists you should see?

We’ll get to the bottom of these questions in this post, so be sure to stick around!

Pediatric Dentist

A pediatric dentist is like a pediatrician, except that the former deals with oral health. Pediatric dentists have undergone specific training to look after younger patients.

These dentists dedicate their skills in caring for patients as young as infants. Their patients, however, also include adolescents and teenagers.

That said, if you have kids or you’re planning for a pregnancy, it’s best to start looking for a pediatric dentist now.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises parents to take their kids to a dentist by the age of 1. You may also bring your child to the dentist at least within six months from the time their first tooth comes out.

General Dentist

General dentists are the most common types of dentists — as of March 2020, there were 144,067 of them in the US.

These dentists, after all, are everyone’s go-to for dental evaluations, diagnosis, and treatments. Yes, that includes treating dental caries that up to nine in 10 US adults suffer from. Moreover, they provide preventative and ongoing maintenance care services for optimal oral health.

Most general dentists also work alongside dentists who practices a specialization. If a patient has a condition that’s outside of their scope, they will refer that patient to a specialist. For instance, they may refer a patient with severe malocclusion to an orthodontist.


Think your teeth suffer from misalignment? You’re not alone — more than a third of US adults have misaligned front teeth! Many others have “bad bites” or misaligned upper and lower front teeth.

So, it’s no wonder that adults now account for over a quarter of orthodontic patients in North America. Orthodontics, after all, is the dentistry practice that deals with oral malocclusions. It involves the diagnosis, correction, maintenance, and prevention of misaligned teeth and jaws.

That said, orthodontics are the dentists who specialize in orthodontics. That makes them one of the different types of dentists regarded as specialists.

For starters, orthodontists take up to three extra years of classes. That’s on top of the four years of regular dental training they undergo. They then sit for another board exam, which in this case, is specific to orthodontic licensure.


Almost half of US adults aged 30 and older suffer from periodontal or gum disease. Of these people, 8.5% have severe gum disease, which puts them at the greatest risk of tooth loss.

If you suspect that you have gum disease, it’s best that you get in touch with a periodontist as soon as possible. These are the dentists who specialize in the health of the gums. They also focus on the overall wellness of the teeth’s supporting structures.

Periodontists are also experts when it comes to dental implant placement and maintenance.

Because of the sensitive nature of their work, periodontists undergo more extensive training. They go through at least three more years of education after regular dental school.


If periodontists are to dental implants, endodontists are to root canal treatments. These dentists specialize in saving your teeth rather than extracting them. They help keep your natural teeth in place, for as long as possible, so that you won’t need implants in the first place.

In addition to root canal treatments, endodontists also carry out endodontic surgeries. “Endodontics” is the specialized study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of the dental pulp.

Endodontists are specialists, as they go through more extensive training too. That’s why they only account for less than three percent of all dentists in the US.


Were you aware that in the US, around 7% of people aged 17 have already lost at least one adult tooth due to decay? At the age of 50, this number skyrockets to a whopping 12 teeth.

If not for prosthodontists, many of these folks would remain toothless.

That said, prosthodontists are specialists in the “recovery” or restoration of lost teeth. This doesn’t mean that they grow permanent teeth from scratch. They do, however, help recover some of the lost functions of lost teeth.

For instance, if you need to wear dentures, a prosthodontist is the type of dentist you should see. The same goes if you need an artificial tooth to replace a missing one.

At the end of the day, the goal of prosthodontists is to help their patients retain functional bites. They also help preserve the optimal appearance of the teeth. This is why the field of prosthodontics is also a type of dental specialization.

Use This Guide to Choose the Right Types of Dentists for Your Family’s Needs

While you may not have to work with all the types of dentists in this list, it’s still best that you know at least one of each. You alone may not require all their services, but someone else in your household might. By learning about your dentist options now, you will know who exactly to call and visit if the need arises.

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