Fact Checked

What is General Dentistry?

Written by Fernanda Elizalde

February 07, 2023

Medically Reviewed

By Dr. Greg Grillo, DDS

Throughout a person’s life, they may encounter many different oral health care professionals. However, general dentistry is likely the area most people are familiar with.

Making up about 80% of all practicing dentists in the U.S., general dentists are the most common by far. For instance, if you’ve ever gotten a professional cleaning, had a cavity filled, or gotten a dental crown, you’ve probably seen a general dentist.

General dentistry comprises an array of services and procedures, all with the goal of helping patients preserve their natural teeth and achieve optimal oral health.

How does the American Dental Association define general dentistry?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), general dentistry can be defined as the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of oral diseases, disorders, and conditions, including their impact on the human body.

General dentists place strong emphasis on education and prevention services, including comprehensive exams, periodontal care, and oral hygiene instructions (OHI). In this way, they’re able to help patients avoid painful conditions and improve their overall health.

What qualifications do general dentists have?

Like all medical professionals, general dentists undergo extensive dental education before receiving their license to practice. First, inspiring dentists need to complete their undergraduate education and earn a bachelor’s degree, typically in one of the life sciences. Then, they’ll need to successfully complete four years at an accredited dental school.

After completing dental school, students must take and pass the National Dental Examination and a regional licensing exam to become licensed professionals. Finally, they're awarded a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. They both mean the same thing - that a dentist has successfully completed his or her degree at an accredited dental school.

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Additionally, dentists are required to meet annual continuing education requirements to keep them updated on all the latest scientific and technological advancements.

Aside from the basic requirements, some dentists also undergo specialized training to perform specific treatments and procedures, including implant placement, cosmetic procedures, and advanced oral surgery.

What does a general dentist do?

General dentistry involves several elements that are equally vital to a person’s continued health. General dentists typically spend their workdays educating patients on best oral hygiene practices, providing treatment for routine dental issues, and relieving patients’ pain in emergency situations.

Most importantly, general dentists create a custom dental care plan for each patient. The treatment planning process may include an oral examination, x-rays, professional cleanings, or the use of other diagnostic equipment to diagnose and treat any issues as early as possible.

General dentistry services and procedures

General dentists offer various treatments and preventative procedures to carry out their roles as primary dental health providers. Some of the most common general dentistry services include:

  • Comprehensive oral examinations
  • Oral health care and hygiene education
  • Periodontal treatment
  • Crown and bridge placement
  • Root canal treatment
  • Oral cancer screenings
  • Dental x-rays
  • Fillings for cavities
  • Teeth whitening
  • Tooth extractions

Why general dentistry is important

It’s important to view your general dentist as a partner in helping you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile. Unfortunately, the average person only goes to the dentist when something is wrong. However, regular dental visits are critical in making sure oral health issues – from tooth decay to oral cancer – are detected and treated as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, various recent scientific studies have confirmed a link between oral health and numerous general health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

How to protect your oral health

The best way to stay on top of your dental health is to visit a general dentist regularly for professional cleanings, examinations, and treatment, if necessary.

When it comes to routine dental check-ups, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ schedule that suits every patient. However, most experts recommend visiting a dentist every six months to maintain good oral health.

In some cases, more frequent visits are advised, typically due to dental problems like gum disease or excessive plaque and calculus buildup. Patients at a lower risk of developing gum disease or tooth decay may need less frequent dental care, but everyone should visit the dentist at least once per year.

Whatever your personal dental care schedule is, keeping up with your regular appointments and following an effective oral hygiene routine at home are the best ways to prevent oral disease and keep your smile looking healthy and bright.


Typically, general dentists are the healthcare providers people see most often. You may make an appointment with your dentist for a bi-annual checkup, to have a cavity filled, or even for a tooth extraction. However, while general dentistry involves many different treatments and procedures, every general dentist’s primary goal is the prevention of disease.

Oral health and hygiene have been linked to several serious health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and pregnancy or birth complications. By placing such strong emphasis on preventative services, general dentists can help their patients avoid serious, often painful issues in the long run.

Most experts recommend the average patient visit the dentist twice per year for a professional cleaning and thorough oral exam. However, more or less frequent visits may be necessary to achieve optimal dental health.


What is the meaning of General Dentistry?

General dentistry is the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of conditions in the oral cavity and surrounding areas. General dentists act as primary dental care providers, managing each patient’s unique healthcare needs, and if necessary, referring them to a dental specialist for more advanced treatment.

What is done in general dentistry?

General dentists provide a combination of prevention, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry services. The most common general dentistry procedures are oral exams, simple extractions, filling cavities, and treating or managing periodontal disease. Some dentists may also specialize in more advanced treatments, like dental implants or Invisalign.

What is the difference between a general dentist and an oral surgeon?

General dentists serve as primary dental care providers. However, part of their job is to refer patients to a specialist when the case is not in their area of expertise. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a dentist who specialize in performing dental surgery.

Do general dentists extract teeth?

In most cases, a general dentist can perform simple tooth extractions. However, more complex or challenging cases may require an oral surgeon.

What are the other types of dentistry?

Although general dentistry is the most common, there are several other dental specialties, including periodontics, endodontics, orthodontics, and cosmetic dentistry.


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