What Is a General Dentist and Specialist Dentist?

The American Dental Association (ADA has 155,000 member dentists) recognizes nine (9) dental specialties. An accredited Dental Specialist has taken advanced training after graduating from dental school. The specialty training program must be recognized and accredited by the ADA Council on Dental Education at an accredited institution. Most states require a Dental Specialist to limit their practice to their specialty. An accredited Dental Specialist can elect to practice General Dentistry with specialized training. This is not a declared specialist that is limited only to their specialty. A general dentist can provide any dental treatment that they are competent and confident in doing. All of the specialty areas of dentistry can be performed by a general dentist that get the necessary training. That is why the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) was founded with the support of the ADA.

Since 1952 the AGD has served the needs and interests of general dentists. The AGD promotes the oral health of the public and fosters the profitability of general dentists through accredited continuing dental education. The AGD helps general dentists to better serve the public. This is why 35,000 general dentists belong even though they must take accredited continuing education to maintain their membership.

The nine accredited (real) specialties:
1. Endodontics
2. Oral Pathology
3. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
4. Orthodontics
5. Pediatric Dentistry
6. Periodontics
7. Prosthodontics
8. Public Health Dentistry
9. Oral Radiology & Imaging

Licensed dentists that hold themselves out to be specialists that have not completed an accredited training program in one of the dental specialties at an approved institution may be committing fraud. Most state Dental Practice Acts do not allow dentists to hold themselves out as a specialist in non-recognized / non-accredited "specialty". State Licensing Boards usually only allow the nine (9) ADA approved specialties and use the ADA accreditation system. Dentists that advertise and hold themselves out as a non-recognized / non-accredited "specialist" without informing the public that they are not really a specialist but only providing services in that non-recognized / non-accredited specialty area of ​​general dentistry can be disciplined and even lose their dental license in that state. This is to protect the public from unscrupulous practitioners.

A dentist that provides unproven tests and treatment may not give relief or produce a correct diagnosis.

To be fair there are organized continuing education programs and dental organizations that can be comprehensive and extremely helpful to training the practicing dentist. The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD is the 2nd largest recognized US Dental Professional Organization) has their Fellowship (FADD) and Mastership (MAGD) programs. This includes a program that requires a large number of accredited continuing education courses (FAD = 500 hours; MAGD = 1100 hours including hands-on courses) in specified fields. The Fellowship also requires a strictly administered written examination. The General Practice Board Certification (Civilian and Military) requires accredited continuing education lecture and hand-on courses, written examination and an oral examination of a comprehensive clinical case. The dentist must indicate that they are a General Dentist with the FAGD, MAGD or Board Certified GP. I believe that all 50 states have no problem with these designations but not as specialists.

Be cautious of a dental organization that provides expensive courses and is run by the person that profits financially from the courses. This can provide a conflict of interest. It may sound professional but money does strange things to people.

There are many professional dental organizations that provide valuable continuing education to scholars in practice. These organizations should not tout non-existing specialties. This can be a serious problem.

Some organizations offer training and tests but the quality must be individually investigated.

Examples of non-dental specialties:

"Amalgam Detoxification Dentistry",
"Holistic Dentistry"
"Cosmetic Dentistry"
"Esthetic Dentistry"
"TMJ Dentistry"
"Implantology"
"Implantologist",
"Certified Restorative Dentist"
"Prevention Dentistry"
"Nonsurgical Periodontics"

Beware of dentists that claim to be a "New Specialty" Dentist
1. Unrecognized field or specialty
2. Unscientific fields,
3. Have not completed an accredited advanced training program,
4. Touts membership in impressive sounding but bogus professional organization
5. Touts membership in an unrecognized professional organization,
6. Articles that are not published in Peer-Reviewed Medical & / or Dental Journals,
7. Books and articles written by non-professionals.
8. Miracle cures that only this one dentist or group of dentists can provide you because of some conspiracy or "goof"
9. Tests that are provided by a lab that is owned or run by health professionals that lost their licenses due to fraud

Remember: just because you can Google it & see on the Internet does not make it true!

Beware of hucksters!
1. Ask for credentials.
2. Ask for double blind scientific studies that are peer-reviewed and published.
3. Ask for are peer-reviewed and published articles
4. Check to see if there is a dental insurance code for the treatment.
5. Check to see if the dental insurance company covers this treatment.
6. Ask to see scientific peer-reviewed evidence for "Miracle" treatments or tests.
7. If it sounds too good to be true then BEWARE!

There are dentists with good intentions that join non-accredited bogus specialty organizations. They can want good results for their patients but may not receive the training that they really need to provide the care that they would like to provide or advertise. It is often difficult for a dentist to know which of these organizations really will provide the training and support that they need and want. It is even more difficult for the patient to determine this. When in doubt go the proven route!

There are many general and specialist dentists that follow the rules and provide you the public with quality care with compassion. When in doubt go the proven route!

Check the AGD (AGD.org), ADA (ADA.org), your state dental association / or local dental association, and ADA recognized dental specialty websites to see if the "specialty" or organization in question is recognized by the AGD, ADA, state dental associations & / or local dental association & / recognized recognized specialties. The ADA website has all of the state and local dental association and specialty websites and contact information. Remember the AGD was involved with the assistance of the ADA and headquartered in the ADA Building in Chicago. When in doubt go the proven route!

It is like going to a developing nation to get cheap dentistry. That is exactly what you usually get, Cheap Dentistry. There is a reason why that dentist can not practice in the US. You can end up paying twice. Once for the bargain or "Miracle" treatment and a second time to have it done correctly.

When in doubt go the proven route!