Your oral & dental health About health professionals Dental professionals Regular dental care is important for you to develop and maintain good health and wellbeing. Adults and children should visit a dentist regularly, as often as they recommend. If you have certain medical conditions, they may want to see you more often. By maintaining a good relationship with your dental professional, you can improve your understanding of how to effectively care for your mouth and make positive choices, not only for your oral health but your wider health too. It can also lead you to know more about any treatments you may undergo, put you at greater ease over certain procedures and lay to rest any preconceptions that may concern you. There are many different types of dental professional that your dental practice may have in place. Typically, a dental team is made up of… Dentist Your dentist works with you to provide all the dental treatment you need. This includes helping to prevent and treat diseases, correcting dental irregularities (particularly in children) and treating injuries around and in the mouth. Dentists lead the dental team and have excellent knowledge of the human body and oral diseases. This means they are skilled at diagnosing and treating you, as well as being in a perfect position to give you great advice. The work of a dentist is becoming increasingly preventive, protecting teeth and gums from decay and disease. You will be able to find dentists working in: General dental care (your local dental practice). Community dental care (in your home, a school, a care home, or a community clinic). Hospital care (including emergency treatment and oral surgery). Dental public health (a non-clinical role which is focused on prevention and promoting oral health). Most dentists you will come across will work as general dental practitioners (GDPs), in a high street practice. This work can be under the NHS or private, but most do both. Dental hygienist Dental hygienists have an important part to play in dental health care and are mainly concerned with preventive dental health and treating gum disease. They show you how to take care of your mouth at home and help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Some of the procedures which your dental hygienist can do include: Scaling and polishing teeth. Taking dental x-rays. Applying topical fluoride and fissure sealants. Most dental hygienists work in dental practices but some may also appear in hospitals and community dental services. Dental therapist A dental therapist carries out routine dental work. This usually takes place in the dental practice but many also provide treatment in a range of places in the community, such as schools and care homes. Oral health education is a key part of a dental therapist’s role, which also includes: Clinical examinations, scaling and polishing teeth. Stop smoking advice and further care and treatment plans. Taking impressions and carry out restoration work on baby and adult teeth. Mouth cancer screenings. As well as the above duties, dental therapists would be effective treating those with dental anxiety, existing medical conditions, physical or learning disabilities, or high levels of untreated decay. Dental nurse The main role of a dental nurse is to provide assistance to the dentist at chair-side and support other members of the team in all aspects of your dental care. They may also help with reception work, as well as provide support with treatment. Your dental nurse will also be: Looking after patient records and making notes when the dentist is examining you. Decontaminating the instruments and maintaining equipment. Making sure all relevant materials and supplies are ready. Dental nurses are also helpful if you need any reassurance, answering any questions and putting you at ease over any fears you may have. Dental technician Dental technicians make dentures, crowns, bridges and braces that improve your appearance, speech and chewing ability. They work to prescriptions from dentists and doctors and have to work with a wide range of materials such as porcelain, plastic and gold, so they can construct appliances to meet your needs. There are five specialist areas for dental technicians: Prosthodontic technicians: Design and make dentures. Orthodontic technicians: Build dental braces. Restoration technicians: Focus on crowns, bridges and veneers. Clinical Dental Technicians: Sit in between the role of a dentist and a dental technician. They specialise in dentures and would usually give the patient an oral examination before taking an impression of the mouth and going on to make the denture itself. Maxillofacial technicians: Work in hospitals on oral surgery, cancer and burns units, helping to reconstruct the faces of patients damaged by accident or disease. All of these people are qualified, trained and regulated to ensure you receive the highest quality of care. The full details of what a all dental professionals can do can be viewed in the GDC's Scope of Practice document. Certain dental professionals may focus on different areas of the mouth and treat specific groups of people. Here is a list of key specialisms that you may encounter. Special Care Dentistry A branch of dentistry that provides preventive and treatment oral care services for people who are unable to accept routine dental care because of some physical, intellectual, medical, emotional, sensory, mental or social impairment, or a combination of these factors. Oral Surgery The area of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of oral conditions requiring surgical intervention. Oral surgery also deals with conditions of the jaws and mouth structures requiring surgery. Orthodontics The branch of dentistry dealing with the prevention and correction of irregular teeth and the relationship of the upper and lower jaws by the use of braces. Paediatric Dentistry Dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through the teen years. A paediatric dentist has the experience and qualifications to care for a child's teeth, gums, and mouth throughout the various stages of childhood. Endodontics A branch of dentistry that specialises in maintaining teeth through endodontic therapy procedures, such as root canal treatment, involving the soft inner tissue of the teeth, called the pulp. The word "endodontic" comes from "endo" meaning inside and "odont" meaning tooth. Periodontics The diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and disorders (infections and inflammation) of the gums and other structures around the teeth. Prosthodontics The replacement of missing teeth and the associated soft and hard tissues by prostheses (crowns, bridges, dentures) which may be fixed or removable, or may be supported and retained by implants. Restorative Dentistry The restoration of diseased, injured, or abnormal teeth to normal function. This includes all aspects of Endodontics, Periodontics and Prosthodontics. Dental Public Health A non-clinical specialty which can be defined as the “science and practice of preventing oral diseases, promoting oral health and improving the quality of life through the organised efforts of society”. Oral Medicine Oral medicine is sometimes termed dental medicine, oral and maxillofacial medicine or stomatology is a specialty focused on the mouth and nearby structures. Treating patients with chronic recurring and medically related disorders of the mouth, their diagnosis and treatment. Oral Microbiology The diagnosis and assessment of facial infection, typically bacterial and fungal disease. This is a clinical specialty undertaken by laboratory-based personnel who provide reports and advice based on interpretation of microbiological samples. Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology A clinical specialty undertaken by laboratory-based personnel. Oral and maxillofacial pathology is the specialty of dentistry and pathology which deals with the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. It is a science that investigates the causes, processes and effects of these diseases. Dental and Maxillofacial Radiology Involves all aspects of medical imaging which provide information about anatomy, function and diseased states of the teeth and jaws. If you would like more information about the role of a dental team, visiting a dentist, or any dental specialisms that affect you, contact our Dental Helpline. Our team provides qualified, confidential and free advice. Call them on +44(0) 1788 539 780, or send in an online enquiry.