How to access dental care
If you are looking for a dentist near you:
There are a variety of ways for you to access quality dental care, whether you’re looking for a general dentist or a specialist, such as a pediatric dentist or orthodontist for your child. Here are some of the resources offered by the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives:
- ADA® Find-a-Dentist™: Seven out of 10 dentists in the U.S. are members of the American Dental Association. These general dentists and specialists voluntarily agree to abide by the high ethical standards reflected in the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct as a condition of their membership.
- Find a Pediatric Dentist: Members of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists provide primary and specialty care for infants, children, adolescents and children with special health care needs.
- Find an Orthodontist: Members of the American Association of Orthodontists treat children, adolescents and adults who would like to improve their ability to bite, chew and speak by straightening their teeth.
- Find a General Dentist: Members of the Academy of General Dentistry are dedicated to lifelong learning and make a commitment to take 75 hours of continuing dental education over a three-year period.
- Find a Periodontist: Members of the American Academy of Periodontology are dentists who specialize in treating diseases of the gums and bone that surrounds and supports the teeth. They are experts in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants.
Find more information about the different dental specialties.
If you are looking for low-cost or charitable dental care:
Assistance programs vary from state to state. Contact your state dental society to find available assistance programs. Another possible source of lower-cost dental care is a dental school clinic. Generally, dental costs in school clinics are reduced and may include only partial payment for professional services covering the cost of materials and equipment. Your state dental society can tell you if there is a dental school clinic in your area.
For more resources, please visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research or the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors.
If you have a dental insurance plan:
Your plan may want you to choose dental care from a list of preferred providers (dentists who have a contract with the dental insurance plan). “Preferred” refers to the insurance companies’ choices. If you choose to receive dental care from outside the preferred provider group, you may have higher out-of-pocket costs. So to help you choose the right dentist for you and your family, you can search the “Find a Dentist” resources above to see if any of the dentists on your list of preferred providers are also members of these organizations.
Specialized Dental Care
If you’re looking to find a dentist you may notice that while most are listed with a “DDS,” some may be listed as “DMD.” They both mean the same thing—your dentist graduated from an accredited dental school. The DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. Dentists who have a DMD or DDS have the same education.
The majority of the 164,000 practicing dentists today are general practitioners. The remainder (about 20 percent) are dental specialists, who have continued on with two or more years of education to earn one of the nine ADA recognized dental specialties:
Pediatric Dentistry: Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.
Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics is the formal name of the dental specialty concerned with the diagnosis, prevention, interception, guidance and correction of malocclusions (bad bites) in children, adolescents and adults. The purpose of orthodontic treatment is to create a healthy bite (straight teeth that properly meet opposing teeth in the opposite jaw) to foster good function (biting, chewing, speaking).
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are dentists with advanced education in facial surgery. This can include care for patients with problem wisdom teeth, facial pain, and misaligned jaws. They treat accident victims suffering facial injuries, place dental implants, care for patients with oral cancer, tumors and cysts of the jaws, and perform facial cosmetic surgery. Their advanced training in anesthesia allows them to provide quality care with maximum patient comfort and safety in the office setting.
Periodontics: Periodontics is that specialty of dentistry that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are also experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, and are also trained in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.
Endodontics: An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in saving teeth. Endodontists become specialists by completing two or more years of advanced training in endodontics following dental school. They perform routine as well as difficult and very complex endodontic procedures, including root canal treatment, endodontic surgery and special procedures to save teeth after traumatic dental injuries. Advanced technologies and specialized techniques used by endodontists give them a very accurate view of the inside of the tooth and allow them to treat the tooth quickly and comfortably.
Prosthodontics: A prosthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the restoration and replacement of teeth. Most prosthodontists receive two to three years of additional training after dental school in a program accredited by the American Dental Association based either at a hospital or a university. The training includes reviews of the literature, lectures, treatment of patients and laboratory experience in fabricating restorations.
Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: Oral pathology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of pathology that deals with the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the mouth, face and jaws. It is a science that investigates the causes, processes, and effects of these diseases. The practice of oral pathology includes research and diagnosis of diseases using various types of tests on biopsies or tissue samples.
Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Oral and maxillofacial radiology is the specialty of dentistry and discipline of radiology concerned with the production and interpretation of radiographic images, including CT scans, that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the mouth, face and jaws.
Dental Public Health: A specialty that focuses on prevention and controlling dental diseases by promoting dental health through organized community efforts. It is that form of dental practice which serves the community as a patient rather than the individual. It is concerned with the dental health education of the public, with applied dental research, and with the administration of group dental care programs as well as the prevention and control of dental diseases on a community basis.