What, Exactly, Is A Family Dentist?

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drews dental family reception

Hello Tooth Fans,

It’s that special time of year again, the magical time between eating pumpkin pie and hanging the mistletoe; of black Friday madness, cyber Monday deals and giving Tuesday considerations.

I think what I like most about this specific time of the holiday season is the optimism that seems to float in the very air. I find it a bit enchanting and my mind invariably wanders back to family and friends, holiday traditions, and the anticipation of a new year.

Last week, as I was pondering the notion of being grateful for family and friends after going to see Creed II with my dad and brothers, it occurred to me that I am also lucky to have a job where those two words mean something too (both literally and figuratively).

Let me explain . . .

What Is A Family Dentist?

family member hands

Dr. Drews and I are both family dentists. Drews Dental Services is a family dental practice. But what, exactly, does that mean? While our team feels like an extended family, that’s not what it means. And yes, we are all committed to treating our patients like family, but that’s not what it means either.

A family dentist is a general dental practitioner who treats patients of all ages. We focus on providing oral healthcare in a family-friendly, positive environment for your entire family, from toddlers to seniors.

The terms “general dentist” and “family dentist” are often used interchangeably since we are all, first and foremost, dentists who have an undergraduate degree followed by a doctorate degree from dental school, hence the DDS or DMD after your dentist’s name. All family dentists are general dentists, but not all general dentists see patients of all ages.

The Benefits of Seeing A Family Dentist

Think of a family dentist as your family’s first line of oral health defense. We see the whole family, we treat the whole family, and we get to know you and your family’s dental history. Having a long-term relationship with a dentist makes going a lot easier and helps your dentist serve you and your whole family better.

1. It’s Comprehensive & Holistic

From gentle dental cleanings to dentures, we can help your family members with preventive, restorative, cosmetic and oral surgery needs. Whether junior needs a dental guard for hockey or grandma needs an implant, we’ve got you covered. Since the whole family goes, we are also able to watch for commonalities and help spot inherited issues.

Regular visits, twice a year, can help keep everyone in good dental health and provide easy access to records and general oral health care advice and education. We work hard to help you establish life-long, good oral health habits for you and your children.

2. It’s Convenient

We often schedule family members together or all in a row to make going to the dentist a family affair. Kids who see their parents getting their teeth cleaned tend to be much less apprehensive about sitting in the same dental chair. We focus on ensuring a positive experience for everyone in the family.

3. It’s A Relief

Let’s face it, emergencies happen and having a family dentist means having someone you can turn to in a crisis. Dental emergencies can be scary and overwhelming from a lost filling or crown to a cracked tooth or an abscess.  Having someone to call for an appropriate assessment and treatment can be a real life saver.

4. It’s A Bargain

I know, I know, you think having a family dentist is often anything but a bargain . . . but consider this: We often catch the early stages of decay or other issues that, if left undetected and untreated, could end up being much larger, much more expensive dental problems. Having a family dentist for routine care means having an oral health partner who can guide you through common, everyday issues as well as help you plan out treatment options based on your family’s budget.

5. It’s Comforting

With dental technology and specialty areas improving and evolving at a much faster pace than ever before, it helps to have a family dentist who can help you navigate and coordinate your oral healthcare and help you ensure you and your loved ones see the right specialist for a specific treatment when it’s warranted.

So yeah, it’s also comforting to have a general dentist in your corner; someone who knows you and your family, someone you see regularly, someone you trust to help guide you through all of your oral healthcare options, including advice about the various specialities and referrals to specialists.

Family dentists are like your family doctor, we are your primary (oral health) care physicians and are able to help you navigate your day-to-day oral health care from toddler tooth brushing to sleep apnea issues.

And, we’re your perfect partner when it comes to consulting with dental specialists.

Dental Specialties

ada journal cover from may 1951 issue

I’m sure you know what an orthodontist is, but did you know there are actually 9 dental specialities approved by the Council on Dental Education and Licensure of the American Dental Association (ADA).

Much like a medical doctor who undergoes additional training to become a cardiologist, a dental specialist receives additional, specialized training following dental school to become, for example, an orthodontist.

Back in 1951 there were 7 recognized specialities, with endodontics and oral and maxillofacial radiology becoming specialities in 1964 and 2000, respectively.

The most recent list of approved and adopted dental specialties (and their certifying boards) are as follows:

  • Dental Public Health – American Association of Public Health Dentistry
    Founded in 1951 and recognized by the ADA as a dental specialty in 1951, this speciality is concerned with preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health for all citizens through the development and support of effective programs of oral health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Endodontics – American Association of Endodontists
    Founded in 1956 and recognized as a dental specialty in 1964, this specialty is concerned with the morphology, physiology and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues. Endodontic treatment (aka a root canal) treats the soft pulp tissue inside the tooth.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology – American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology
    Founded in 1948 and officially recognized in 1950, the OMP concentrates on identifying and managing diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions and investigate the causes, processes and effects of these diseases.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology – American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology
    Founded in 1979 and recognized as a dental speciality in 2000, the OMR practitioners specialize in radiology (x-rays) in dentistry.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery – American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
    Founded in 1946 and formally recognized as a specialty in 1948, this branch of dentistry is concerned with face, mouth and jaw surgery.  This includes extracting teeth and placing implants.
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics – American Association of Orthodontists
    Founded in 1929 and recognized by the ADA in 1950, orthodontists diagnose, prevent and treat dental and facial irregularities to correctly align teeth and jaws. (The braces doctors)
  • Periodontics – American Academy of Periodontology
    Founded in 1940 and recognized as a specialty in 1948, periodontists specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth, and in the placement of dental implants.
  • Prosthodontics – American College of Prosthodontists
    Founded in 1946 and recognized as a dental specialty in 1948, this dental speciality is concerned with the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation, and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance, and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues.
  • Pediatric Dentistry – American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
    Founded in 1940 and accepted as a dental specialty in 1948, pediatric dentistry specializes in providing both primary and comprehensive oral health care for infants through adolescents (including those with special health care needs).

While you may find the need to see various dental specialists throughout your lifetime, it is your family dentist who is often your first line of oral health defense.  We’re sort of like the quarterbacks of the dental team.

I love the work I do as a family dentist practicing out of an office full of friendly people who feel like family, who are committed to treating our patients like family.

If you’re new to the area and looking for a family dentist, or just looking to make a switch, give us a call at 207-782-5308 or stop in and say hello at 471 Sabattus Street (the old Friendly’s ice cream building).

Love & Family & Friends,

kristie's signature

Kristie Lake, DMD

* Report of the ADA-Recognized Dental Specialty Certifying Boards, April 2011
* Specialty Definitions Approved and Adopted by the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards May 2018

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