Primary dental care typically refers to the regular, preventative care a patient receives from his or her dentist. If the patient has any dental issues, the dentist may treat them, or they may refer the patient to a specialist. This is where the "primary" comes from; it refers to the fact that the regular dentist is the patient's first point of contact for care, and the one who monitors his or her dental health on a regular basis. The type of primary dental care that each person receives can vary depending on his or her specific needs and overall health. In many cases, an individual will pay a lower insurance premium to visit his or her primary dentist than a specialist.
The most common example of primary dental care is a regular cleaning of the teeth and gums, also known as dental prophylaxis. This is done to remove plaque and helps in preventing cavities or gum disease. The dentist also examines the teeth at this time to make sure there are no existing problems that will require treatment. This type of preventative care is very important for dental health, and is the reason that most people visit their dentists on a regular basis. Most dentists recommend getting the teeth professionally cleaned every six months.
Often, primary dental care will also require taking regular X-rays of the teeth to check for any other problems or to ensure the teeth are not moving, such as following orthodontic treatment. Orthodontic treatment is not considered part of primary dental care; typically, such treatment will require a referral from the primary dentist. Other treatments that might be received as part of primary dental care include fluoride treatments, tooth whitening, or other cosmetic procedures. The treatment and filling of cavities may also be part of dental care if necessary. More extensive procedures might require referral to an oral surgeon.
This is the other important aspect of primary dental care; obtaining referrals to an oral surgeon or other specialist if it is required. Because the primary dentist has records of the patient's past health and regularly monitors his or her teeth, he or she can determine if it is necessary for a patient to have further treatment. For instance, treatments like wisdom tooth extraction or a root canal may require treatment from specialists, and the dentist will be able to refer patients for treatment. The primary dentist may then continue to monitor the patient after he or she has oral surgery to make sure he is healing as necessary.