With more and more marketing of dental services, it’s easy for patients to become confused about what today’s expanded dental terminology means to them. So let’s start with the basics. General dentistry is the term most often used when referring to basic dentistry, which the American Dental Association (ADA) officially defined in 1997 as “the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment (nonsurgical, surgical or related procedures) of diseases, disorders and/or conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and/or the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body; provided by a dentist, within the scope of his/her education, training and experience, in accordance with the ethics of the profession and applicable law.”
What Laws and Regulations Apply to General Dentistry?
Many people are familiar with the ADA, but don’t realize that it is not a regulatory body for dentists. The ADA is a dental society and a leading source of oral health related information for both dentists and their patients. In the U.S., the practice of general dentistry is regulated at the state level, and regulations vary somewhat from state to state. The regulating body in North Carolina is the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners. Its purpose is “to ensure that the dental profession merit and receive the confidence of the public and that only qualified persons be permitted to practice dentistry and dental hygiene in the state of North Carolina.” The Board was created by the NC Legislature and enforces the laws that are enacted by the Legislature. The laws require that anyone practicing general dentistry be a graduate of reputable dental institution, earning a DDS or DMD, who has undergone a satisfactory examination of proficiency in the knowledge and practice of dentistry. (For more information, see the NC General Statutes for dentistry PDF.)
The Broadening Array of General Dentistry Services
It’s the latter part of the ADA definition of (general) dentistry that can result in some confusion for patients. Traditionally, general dentistry has focused on the prevention and treatment of general oral health issues. A general dentist is the equivalent of a primary care physician in the medical profession. More recently, the services offered by some general dentistry practices, such as Raleigh Comprehensive and Cosmetic Dentistry, are broader and include cosmetic, orthodontic, and periodontal services. That’s where the latter part of the ADA definition factors in – that the general dentistry provider needs to have the education, training, and experience that correspond to offering those additional services.
Newer terms that fit under the umbrella of general dentistry include comprehensive dentistry and cosmetic dentistry, both of which are components of our practice name. (The qualifications and use of those terms is not regulated by the NC Board. Rather, they are chosen areas of focus for general dentists, much like the terms family dentistry and pediatric dentistry.)
As a comprehensive dentistry provider, our goal is to provide families with the added convenience of receiving all dental treatments from the same provider* – one who is familiar with long-term patient history and interested in long-range patient care. We have taken the time and effort to get appropriate training and experience to become a highly qualified provider of those additional services. Similarly, we provide cosmetic dentistry services for patients of all ages interested in smile enhancement. For the most part, our exceptionally broad range of general dentistry services means that your family can have its full range of dental needs provided in our familiar, comfortable, high-tech office surroundings.
* At times, we may make a referral to an outside dental specialist (e.g., an oral surgeon) to treat a rare or extremely complicated condition.