Five Dental Specialties and what they do

There are many more dental health professionals besides the everyday, general dentists. Not many people know that the field of dentistry has a specialist for almost every type of oral hygiene/health issue.

Different specialists in the dental industry include Periodontists, Orthodontists, Prosthodontists and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

General dentists

Think of your everyday dentist as the General Practitioner. The dentist is your first point of call for dental issues like toothache, gum injuries or just a check-up and cleaning. The dentist will assess your mouth and if needed, refer you to a specialist.

General dentists can treat patients of all ages. Dentists can prescribe medication and do oral surgery. Dentists can also assist in taking X-rays and measurements to assist other specialists in creating dentures or other oral prosthetics.

Periodontist – Gum Specialist

A periodontist is a dental specialist who treats gum disease. Many gum diseases can cause loose teeth, bleeding, sore gums and other unfavourable symptoms.

Periodontists focus on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and other structures that support the teeth, explains Delta Dental.

Periodontists perform gum grafts and pocket reduction procedures as well as other minor surgeries. They can also prescribe medication.


Most commonly known after general dentists, orthodontists are the ones who fit and adjust braces and other medical interventions that are meant to straighten/align the jaw.

These include clear aligners, palatal expanders or headgear as part of your treatment plan.

An orthodontist specialises in fixing issues like overbite, underbite or crossbite. All of these conditions are owing to a misaligned jaw. Orthodontists usually only see referred patients. You will need to see a dentist first to check your eligibility for orthodontist work.


Prosthodontists are sometimes mistaken for cosmetic surgeons because they fix aesthetic issues in the mouth. Although the difference is that prosthodontists fix and fill dental problems that cause actual oral issues too.

Health 24 explains that they do anything from a single customised front crown with an optimal cosmetic result, to porcelain veneers, all-ceramic crowns, all-ceramic bridges, implant-supported crowns, implant-supported bridges, implant-supported dentures as well as post-cancer and post-trauma reconstructions.

In addition, prosthodontists also treat and manage pain and discomfort relating to endodontic/root canal problems, ‘bite’ or occlusal problems and Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders.

Usually, the prosthodontist is the co-ordinator of the entire dental team, particularly in cases where several specialists are needed to ‘fix’ the mouth. The prosthodontist will design the outcome of what needs to be done, and the rest of the team will implement the plan.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery (MFOS) combines surgical training with dental expertise. The speciality deals with the mouth, head, neck, face and jaw. The Department of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery (MFOS)deals with diseases, injuries, tumours, defects and deformities.

A Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon needs to study many disciplines within the field of dentistry. According to WITS University, it is a healthcare provider that has completed a five-year dentistry degree followed by a four-year postgraduate qualification. A Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon will need to complete a postgraduate training programme, including rotations in General Surgery, the Intensive Care Unit, Trauma, Plastic Surgery and Oral Pathology with dedicated clinics in Orthognathic surgery, Implantology, Craniofacial Surgery and Facial Clefts, including cleft lip and palate.

Dental specialists covered by Affinity Dental

The problem with venturing out to more specialised practitioners is that specialist work can be pricey. This is why many people opt for a dental insurance policy so that should they need to have some extra work done, they are financially covered, Affinity Dental reported.

Does medical insurance cover specialists?

Not all dental insurance providers cover specialist work. Often, certain specialist consultations are excluded. It depends on the insurance provider and the terms of your insurance contract. 
The cost of dental care in South Africa is quite high.  For example, a root canal can cost you anywhere from R2000 upwards.  Dental work is a luxury for people who can afford it. Children are more prone to diseases, accidents that affect the teeth and may need more appointments and consultations as they grow and develop. When it comes to parents, having dental cover can save loads of money by having dental insurance.  

Like health insurance, dental insurance covers the cost of specific procedures, check-ups and emergencies either in their entirety or to an agreed-upon percentage, depending on the type of plan you choose. In turn, the insured pays a monthly premium. Dental insurance policies help many people to budget effectively for the cost of major dental procedures.

As for Affinity Dental, there are three tiers of dental insurance available at different price points. Each of these options covers individual specialist work to various degrees. 

Adults and children need to visit the dentist at least twice a year, and these dental maintenance appointments can start to add up. Dental insurance will cover you for any additional treatments such as crowns, root canals or fillings, whether they are done at the dentist, or specialist practice.  

Usually, a dentist will refer you to a specialist, if needed. 

If you need to find an Affinity Dental approved dentist in your area, click here. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *