A family dentist provides basic dental care to patients of all ages. This can include a range of services from emergency dentistry to routine checkups. A dental education, which includes dental school and clinical training, is necessary to work as a family dentist. As with other medical professions, dentists also need to sit for a licensing exam and meet continuing education requirements to retain their licenses.
On a day to day basis, the family dentist works with new and established patients to manage their dental health. Routine examinations and cleanings are part of the job, as are appointments to address specific concerns like emerging dental disease. Patients with chronic dental problems may need more close monitoring and maintenance care to ensure that their needs are met. If an issue falls outside the scope of the practice, the dentist can provide a referral to a different care provider. In the case of a referral, the dentist can provide a consult with an overview of the patient's history for the benefit of the new practitioner.
In addition to routine care, family dentists may offer cosmetic dentistry along with treatment of basic oral health problems like cavities. Complex oral and maxillofacial surgery is generally not offered, or treatments like braces, which require the services of an orthodontist. The family dentist may work with other care providers to offer complete care to a patient, such as checkups between visits to an orthodontist or management of oral health in patients who take medications that cause dry mouth.
Patients can see a family dentist throughout their lives, from early childhood to old age. The dentist has equipment and training to handle pediatric patients, who can present special concerns because their mouths are still developing. As patients age, the dentist can monitor ongoing areas of concern and provide preventative care. Since the dentist usually gets to know the patient well and becomes acquainted with the patient's detailed medical history, it can be easier to catch health problems before they become serious.
Some dental practices may include orthodontists and other specialists alongside a family dentist. This makes it easy for dentists to offer referrals and keep patients with the same practice for as many services as possible. For patients, this can be convenient and may also result in better outcomes because it provides more continuity of care. Sharing charts, patient history, and past experiences can be much simpler when doctors work in the same office and are familiar with each other.