Flossing and brushing are sometimes not enough to give you your desired smile. Your teeth can become discolored from beverages and food, chipped, or crooked. Fortunately, a skilled general dentist can help you prevent or reverse these dental issues, making you confident in your smile. Dentists at The Whittier Dentist are dedicated to personalized attention from your initial contact and strive to offer oral care designed to meet your goals and needs. Our health is our priority and can help you understand your condition, symptoms, and the best treatment option in an office setting.

Who is a General Dentist?

For most patients, their general dentist is a medical practitioner they see more than the others. General dentistry focuses on disease prevention; most oral health procedures are preventive or diagnostic. By emphasizing good oral health and hygiene routine, a general dentist can also help prevent oral disease progression.

A general dentist offers dental care to patients across all age groups. At your routine dental visit, the dentist will probably conduct a thorough exam of the mouth, gums, teeth, and surrounding tissues, clean, and then discuss their findings. If the examination reveals cavities, the physician will recommend filings in the affected teeth. While these are common procedures, they are not the only dental services offered in general dentistry.

General Dentist Qualifications

Typically, a general dentist has completed four (4) years of undergraduate education at an accredited dental school. Additionally, they have met the requirements of state licensing boards. While some dentists have Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) following their names, others have Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). The variance between the two is the title used on the dental school's degrees; their training and education are the same.

The general dentist can also enroll in an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) postdoctoral program, a twelve-month certificate program. The intensive academic and clinically rigorous full-time program is tailored to prepare the dentist to deliver comprehensive patient-centric care to all persons, including patients with special needs.

What Does a General Dentist Do?

Unlike a specialist who is mainly focused on a specific area of practice, a general dentist offers a wide array of services, including:

  • Preventive Services

  • Cosmetic procedures

  • Restorative procedures

  • Overall health concerns

Preventive Procedures

Professional preventative oral care plays a significant role in reinforcing the efforts to keep gums and teeth healthy. Sometimes oral issues can develop regardless of following a good dental routine at home because some patients are more vulnerable.

While modern dental techniques can fix many oral health diseases, preventive dentistry focuses on avoiding challenges instead of waiting for them to occur and looking for methods to resolve them. Preventable issues by preventative care include gum disease, tooth enamel erosion, and tooth decay.

Your mouth is a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria, making your overall wellbeing and oral health linked and preventing oral diseases essential. For example, gum disease is linked to an increased risk of suffering from brain disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and lung infections.

Dental Check-Ups

Everyone should go for dental check-ups. The visit allows your dental expert to discover dental and oral challenges you had not noticed, including:

  • Soft parts on your tooth enamel

  • Enamel discoloration

  • Tartar and plaque build-up

  • Signs of throat or mouth cancer

  • Dental spaces between the gums and teeth that indicate gum disease

Untreatable dental health conditions will be painful and challenging to treat without routine check-ups.

Allowing the dentist to regularly inspect your gums and teeth can also prevent oral problems. For instance, when the dentist checks for cavities and offers you instructions to boost your oral hygiene habits, you are less prone to cavities.

A dental visit does not have to be something dreadful. Your general dentist will make the experience memorable. They can divide the dental work into numerous visits, so there is little in a sitting. Also, there are sedation and pain relief options during your procedures. Here is what to expect during your routine dental visit:

  1. Preparing for Your Dental Appointment

Planning adequate time from your daily schedule allows you to feel less anxious and rushed to go back. When scheduling an appointment, ask about the length of dental examination and cleaning before adding a few minutes.

If you have dental health insurance, check whether the dentist is in-network before booking the appointment. If you do not have coverage, learn the needed cost beforehand.

On your dental visit's day, arrive at the dental office early and fill out the required paperwork. It gives the staff enough time to prepare for your visit.

  1. Your Routine Visit

The dental hygienist will require you to wear eye shields. The hygienist will use metals and ultrasonic tools to scrape off the build-up of tartar and plaque on and along the gumline. Additionally, they will floss between the teeth. If you experience mouth pain or sensitivity, notify the hygienist.

Once they are done, they will rinse the teeth and then polish them. You can choose your buffing paste flavor before rinsing your teeth again.

Normally, you should receive an x-ray once a year to diagnose conditions that are starting or challenging to identify.

Then your hygienist will bring your dentist in to thoroughly examine every tooth and search for gaps and pockets between the gums and teeth.

Using a periodontal probe, the dentist will identify problem spots. The tool also measures the gum pockets' depth.

If it has been a while since you last consulted with the physician, you can anticipate the same dental care discussed above but with some extras. The dentist will conduct an x-ray to seek what is happening inside your mouth, gums, supporting bone structures, and teeth.

The longer you wait between check-ups, the more plaque and tartar build along and on the gum lines, hence a longer deep cleaning session.

  1. After Your Dental Visit

If the mouth is sore, you can take painkillers.

Call your dental expert between routine visits if your jaws swell, you experience tooth pain, or you have a question. Issues such as a broken tooth are emergencies that require immediate medical attention.

  1. Follow-up Care

If the mouth is healthy, you should visit your dentist after six months. Your dentist can recommend the most suitable treatment plan depending on what they found out during the examination. If you have dental issues, you will return sooner than you would for your next routine visit.

Fluoride and Dental Sealants Treatments

Fluoride strengthens your enamel (your teeth' outer protective layer), protecting teeth against cavities. The dentist will apply fluoride to the teeth either as a foam, varnish, or gel. According to the American Dental Association, fluoride can lower tooth decay by up to 40%. Moreover, it can reverse early decay stages.

Fluoride treatment works on the teeth' smooth surfaces.

On the other hand, dental sealants protect the crannies and nooks of back teeth from decay. In other words, the plastic resins harden your tooth's surface and cover the grooves and cracks on teeth that are hard to reach. Sealants also make brushing teeth more effective and more manageable.

Your Role in Your Preventive Dental Care

A lot of your preventive dental care begins with you. Following healthy oral habits can help prevent gingivitis, gum disease, and cavities. As a result, your dentist will recommend the following basics of good oral health:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two (2) minutes

  • Flossing your teeth daily to take away any food particles trapped between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach

  • Maintaining a balanced diet with vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin C like kale and broccoli.

  • Limiting your acidic or sugary snacks and drinks intake

  • If you engage in contact sports, put on a mouthguard. The mouthguard will protect your gums and teeth. Moreover, it can prevent jaw fractures, cerebral hemorrhaging, and neck injuries.

Cosmetic Dentistry

If your teeth are discolored, stained, chipped, worn, misaligned, misshapen, broken, or with gaps between them, cosmetic procedures can help you achieve a better smile. Since not all the following methods can improve/enhance your smile, your general dentist can assist you in determining the most appropriate option.

Here are some of the most common procedures and how they work:

Teeth Whitening

Over the years, your teeth can become stained from medication, smoking, drinks, or food. Generally, the process can be performed at the general dentist's office in one office. The expert will first remove debris, tartar, and plaque from every tooth's surface, restoring the natural appearance. Then your teeth will be whitened using a bleaching agent.

There are also several choices of teeth bleaching at home, including:

  • Toothpaste

  • Tray-based teeth bleaching systems

  • Tooth whitening strips and gels

Dental Implants

Dental implants are replacement tooth roots. They offer a strong foundation for removable or fixed replacement teeth made to match the natural teeth.

Your general dentist will place a tooth root implant made of titanium into the bone socket of your missing tooth. As your jawbone recovers, it grows around the implanted metal post, anchoring it into your jaw.

After the implant has bonded to your jawbone, an abutment is attached to the post to hold your new tooth. The dentist will also make an impression of your teeth and a model of your bite. Your new tooth will be based on the model. Finally, the replacement tooth (crown) will be attached to your abutment.

Dental Veneers

Veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells attached to the teeth' front surface. Generally, they are made from resin-composite or porcelain materials and are permanently bonded to the teeth.

One of the advantages of dental veneers is improved teeth appearance, giving the patient a more even and brighter smile. The procedure is used to treat the following cosmetic situations:

  • Chipped or broken teeth

  • Uneven colored or severe teeth discoloration that the dentist cannot fix with whitening

  • Unusually shaped or pointed teeth

  • Gaps in the teeth

Veneers can last for at least ten years, depending on the veneer type of your choice, making them an ideal investment that guarantees confidence in the smile.

Inlays and Onlays

Also referred to as indirect fillings, inlays and Onlays are used when your teeth have insufficient tooth structure or mild to moderate decay to support a dental filling. The dentist will place the inlay on your tooth surface as long as the tooth cusps are not damaged. Nevertheless, when a significant part of the tooth or cusp is damaged, the dental expert will use Onlays to cover your entire tooth's surface.

The dental option strengthens teeth, prevents further tooth deterioration or decay, and restores the teeth' shape.

Overall Health Concerns

A common myth is that a check-up visit is only vital if there are possible dental diseases and that they are restricted to concerns they will detect. Nonetheless, general dentistry check-up visits allow early detection and prevention of overall health and dental health ailments.

The section below discusses how the check-up can detect diseases and how your general dentist can intervene before the health condition worsens.

  • Diabetes— Diabetics are susceptible to oral health conditions. Additionally, diabetes symptoms can worsen among patients with oral health concerns and diabetes. For instance, a dry mouth could suggest diabetes. While there are several possible explanations, there are times when a diabetes diagnosis starts with a general dentistry check-up.

  • Periodontal disease — Commonly known as gum disease, periodontal disease happens when your gums and jawbone become infected and damaged. During your visit, your general dentist will check for symptoms of gum disease like sensitive gums, deep gum pockets, gum recession, and gum inflammation. It lets the medical expert recommend the most effective methods to treat the condition before it worsens.

  • Oral cancer — Your general dentist can check for signs and symptoms of oral cancer during your check-up visit. These symptoms can be severe pain, white and red patches, and sores. While the check-up does not confirm oral cancer existence, detecting early signs of the disease can permit a biopsy to determine if it is oral cancer or another concern that a doctor should address.

Restorative Procedures

A general dentist serves as the first line of defense against various dental health concerns. The dentist will use tools, clinical expertise, diagnostic imaging, and tests to diagnose existing or potential pathologies and diseases during your dental exam. The expert's primary focus is your neck, head, and oral cavity. Then the dentist will develop a personalized plan to treat or prevent dental diseases. If the most effective option is restorative, the general dentist will work with you to understand your needs and goals.

Restorative dental procedures replace or repair teeth. They have many advantages, including:

  • The most significant advantage of a restorative dental procedure is restoring teeth' functionality. Healthy teeth allow you to talk and eat with ease.

  • If you have a tooth with a cavity or infection, you will probably experience pain. These procedures eliminate the pain by removing the infection or correcting the issue.

  • A restorative procedure improves your teeth' appearance, allowing you to smile with confidence.

  • Correcting a dental issue once it is detected can stop it from worsening or resulting in more challenges. For instance, an ignored cavity can lead to a tooth that cannot be savaged, requiring tooth extraction.

  • Preserves jawbone density — If you have a missing tooth, the part of your jaw where it held starts weakening.

Some of the restorative procedures performed by general dentists include:

Root Canal

A root canal involves removing the pulp (soft center of your tooth). Your pulp consists of connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves that assist your tooth to grow.

The procedure is performed when the pulp becomes inflamed, is infected, or injured. Your tooth crown can be intact even when the pulp is dead. Therefore, removing the pulp is the most effective method to preserve the tooth's structure.

The root canal is performed in a dental office. Your general dentist will place a numbing medication on the gum near your tooth. Once the tooth is numb, the doctor will open the tooth's top, exposing the pulp. Using files, the dentist will remove the damaged pulp and clean all tooth canals. Your general dentist will coat the opening with antibiotics to stop reinfection before sealing your tooth with a sealer paste and gutta-percha.

Dental Bridge

A dental bridge can be an ideal solution if you have a missing tooth after suffering from tooth decay, injury, or gum disease. To get the dental bridge, you require healthy teeth on either side of the gap.

Typically, teeth work together. If you have a missing tooth, nearby teeth move into the gap. Also, teeth in the opposite jaw can move down or up towards the gap, leading to chewing challenges, bite challenges, pain, and low self-esteem.

A bridge is made of:

  • at least two crowns for the teeth on both sides of the gap, and

  • a pontic (a false tooth) in between.

A false tooth can be made of either porcelain, alloys, or gold.

Teeth Bonding

Usually, a tooth-colored resin material is applied and then hardened using light, ultimately bonding the material and improving or restoring your smile.

You can consider the dental bonding to:

  • Improve your discolored teeth's appearance

  • Close gaps between your teeth

  • Make your teeth look longer

  • Repair decayed, cracked, or chipped teeth

You do not require much preparation for the dental procedure. Also, anesthesia is not compulsory unless your tooth requires drilling, you have a chip near your nerves, or a decaying tooth. The dentist will use a shade guide to choose the composite resin color that compliments the tooth's color.

The general dentist will roughen the tooth surface before applying a conditioning liquid. Then they will apply resin, molden, and smoothen it to the anticipated shape. The resin is hardened using a laser. Finally, the physician will trim, shape, and polish it.

Generally, the process takes a maximum of one hour per tooth to complete.

Dental Dentures

A dental denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and the surrounding tissues. Two forms of dentures are available, namely partial and complete dentures. While partial dentures are used when a patient has some natural teeth, complete dentures are used when all teeth are missing.

The process takes several appointments and a couple of weeks to complete. It involves the dentist making a series of impressions of your jaws and taking measurements of how your jaws relate to each other and the space between them.

A denture is made to resemble your natural teeth, so there will be unnoticeable changes in your appearance. Additionally, it can improve your smile by filling out the facial appearance.

How Often Should You Visit Your General Dentist?

Consulting with your dentist twice a year is the rule of thumb to follow. However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question. When determining your dental routine, there are numerous factors to consider, including:

  • Lifestyle — If you smoke or drink alcohol, you need to visit your general dentist frequently. Individuals who drink alcohol are three times at risk of suffering from permanent tooth loss.

  • Biology and genes — If you are susceptible to plaque, tartar, or cavities, you should go an extra mile to fight them. If your family has a history of specific oral health conditions, you require additional dentist's attention.

  • Your oral attitude — The more dedicated you are to keeping the teeth, gums, and mouth healthy and following a good oral hygiene routine, the less likely you will need to visit your general dentist often.

  • Diabetics

  • Expectant mothers

  • Gum disease patients

  • People with a weak immune response

Contact a Qualified General Dentist Near Me

General dentistry is key to maintaining a healthy smile and overall health. It also allows early detection and prevention of diseases and tooth decay resulting in infections, permanent tooth loss, challenges while eating or speaking, and other health conditions that can put the entire body at risk. The Whittier Dentist offers a wide range of services that protect your family's dental wellbeing, improve self-confidence and smile, replace missing teeth, and rectify any damage. To book your initial consultation, please call us at 562-632-1223. Our friendly receptionists will be glad to assist you in taking the first step in dental care.