Simply put, dentists who do not have a specific area of specialization are called general dentists. Most people who go to dental schools, intend to focus on a specific field of dentistry such as endodontics, pediatrics, or orthodontics. Such dentists limit their practice to their chosen area. In some cases, they join dental practices that focus on the particular field.
Just as there are dentists who opt to specialize in one field, others prefer not to have a specialty, and they are known as general dentists. General dentistry is a very broad field, and general practitioners cater to people who require dental help regarding virtually any issue.
General dentists are also called family dentists since most of them end up providing oral health care for entire families, from the parents to the teenage kids and toddlers. This is particularly true in small towns where there are only a few practicing dentists. The local family dentist becomes an extended part of the family.
A general dentist, to get his license to practice, must complete the necessary schoolwork, get the required training, and pass the licensure examinations. After completing all the requirements, he may opt to practice on his own, or join a general dentistry practice.
Dentists who prefer to specialize in specific areas proceed to obtain additional years of training to gain the necessary skills for their chosen field. General dentists, understandably, do not have the same skills and knowledge in specialized areas of dentistry.
General dentistry is an all-encompassing field of dentistry on its own. While they may not have specialist training, general dentists are well-trained, and have impressive skills as well. They have knowledge in all fields of dentistry. Thus, they can give advice to patients on everything related to their dental health. They are the first line of defense, so to speak. If a patient needs specialized care, then the general dentist points him in the right direction, by referring him to the right specialist.
General dentists know their limitations. They know when it is time for specialists to take over a patient. While they can give the patients a general idea on their specific condition, they leave the rest to the specialist, who will then make a proper diagnosis, and recommend an appropriate treatment plan for the patient. In many cases, the general dentist works with the specialist in the management of the patient’s overall dental care.
In many cases, a general dentist acts as a patient’s regular dentist, and not a specialist of any kind. The patient visits his dentist on a regular basis for routine checkups and treatments. Only in special situations will the general dentist request a specialist to step in, such as when the patient complains of a dental condition that only a specialist can handle.