What is General Dentistry? What You Need To Know

Did you know that there are over 201,000 dentists practicing in the United States? Most of these dentists are qualified to provide general dentistry.

But what is general dentistry? If you’ve been wondering that question, then you’re not alone – unless you’re training to be a dentist, no one ever sits you down and explains what’s in the remit of a general dentist.

We’re here to tell you precisely what general dentistry entails so that you can feel educated about this part of the profession. Additionally, it’ll help you to understand what’s outside the remit of a general dentist so that you know when to see a specialist.

If this interests you, read on to find out more.

What Is General Dentistry?

General dentistry is fundamentally the service you receive when you go for an annual check-up. General dentists see patients of all ages and deal with a variety of dental concerns.

All dentists undergo rigorous and lengthy training. Full-time training to become a general dentist takes around five years, and then students must pass several exams to become certified with the American Dental Association.

Once qualified, a general dentist can assess and diagnose problems and treat them in most cases. General dentists’ day-to-day work includes cosmetic, preventative, and restorative procedures.

Preventative General Dentistry

The first part of general dentistry involves spotting potential issues and advising before more serious treatment is needed. This is particularly important for children as they become more independent with their oral hygiene.


Everyone should visit a general dentist at least once a year for a check-up (children should go twice a year). At a routine check-up, a dentist will do several checks in a short time. They will evaluate:

  • Teeth alignment
  • Decay
  • Risk of decay
  • Gum health
  • Cancer risk
  • Overall tooth health
  • Oral hygiene

From their quick assessment, a dentist will recommend a treatment plan that will likely be one of the standard general dentistry procedures. In most cases, the dentist will be able to complete all treatment in their clinic.

Teeth Cleaning

Teeth cleaning is an integral part of general dentistry for kids; if children aren’t using a proper cleaning technique, a dentist can help break up any formed plaque.

However, it’s important that dentists then stress the importance of good oral hygiene all the time and that kids shouldn’t rely on professional teeth cleaning services.

Cosmetic General Dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry is becoming increasingly popular among all demographics. It’s a common misconception that a general family dentistry clinic won’t provide cosmetic services. In actual fact, most clinics offer at least the most common cosmetic dental treatments: teeth whitening and veneers.

Teeth Whitening

Professional teeth whitening is less popular than it once was, partly due to the rise of home whitening kits. However, a general dentist can perform effective and safe whitening with better results than home whitening kits.

A general dentist is licensed to use a hydrogen peroxide gel and drying light to bleach teeth quickly without damaging them.


Veneers are one of the more complex procedures done by general dentists. This involves shaving down each side of a tooth and then bonding a tooth-colored piece of composite to the remaining tooth. This allows a dentist to shape the tooth to whatever shape the patient wants.

Veneers can be costly, and it’s important to remember that the composite can break at any time, so it’s good to have an emergency savings fund for veneer replacements.

Restorative General Dentistry

Although one of the goals of general dentistry is to identify and prevent problems in the early stages, sometimes restorative dentistry is necessary. A general dentist can treat minor and major damage to the teeth with various methods, including fillings, extractions, root canals, and bonding.


Fillings are one of the most common procedures done in a general dentist’s office. A general dentist will advise a filling if there are any small holes in the teeth.

It’s easy, relatively painless, and helps prevent any further decay. However, if the tooth hole is too large, they may suggest an extraction instead.


If a hole in the tooth can’t be repaired with a filling, a general dentist may recommend it’s extracted. Equally, impacted teeth or overcrowded teeth sometimes need to be removed.

These procedures are usually simple, done under a local anesthetic, and included in all general dentistry services.

Root Canals

A Root canal is a minor surgery where a dentist deadens the nerve below a tooth and removes inflamed tissue. They’re only necessary when the tissue under the tooth becomes infected and can cause severe tooth pain.

Local anesthetic and sometimes antibiotics are required before a dentist performs a root canal.


Bonding is another way to repair damaged teeth. This can be done to prevent further decay or as a cosmetic procedure. A general dentist will tint a resin to match the patient’s natural tooth color and apply it to the damaged area.

They apply several layers of resin before polishing and cleaning them, so they resemble the natural tooth. Bonding is a simple procedure for a general dentist, but it can be time-consuming.

General Dentistry Explained

No more looking up ‘what is general dentistry’; now you know all the basics of the profession. Whether you’re an aspiring dentist or a curious patient, it doesn’t hurt to understand the remit of a general dentist!

Did you find this article helpful? If so, make sure to check out our other posts for all things dental, health, lifestyle, and more.