What do you do? The typical meet and greet/party conversation topic. When people ask me this question, I proudly tell them that I’m a dentist. Because I am. I love that what I do is one word and doesn’t require an entire sentence to explain. It’s good. Not a lot of explanation necessary. Everyone knows what a dentist does or has some idea, right?
The conversation typically goes in one of a few different directions after that. I’m going to discuss one of them in particular. It’s the one where someone is surprised that I do not personally perform every single dental service one can possibly think of.
I’ll show you how it goes:
ME: I’m a dentist.
SOMEBODY: Cool, you do ortho or just general?
ME: I don’t really do orthodontics, I actually work with an awesome group of orthodontists, they specialize in…
(get cut off)
SOMEBODY: Oh, ok, so you just do general.
Just do general? Yeah, I just do general, whatever that means! The term “general dentistry” is really popular in the public and within the profession. Many dentists have it on their signs and in their advertising. There’s nothing terribly wrong with the term, I don’t think it’s derogatory or anything, but there’s a term that I like better that I feel more accurately describes what I do and what my role is in the spectrum of all of the dental services that are available. The term is restorative dentist. In the group of dentists and dental specialists that I study with and collaborate with here in San Antonio, I am referred to as the restorative dentist. I treatment plan and perform the restorations: crowns, composite fillings, ceramic inlays and onlays, fixed partial and complete dentures, removable partials and complete dentures, veneers, whitening, etc. In many cases, yes, my wife and I perform oral surgery, orthodontic, periodontal and endodontic procedures, but the majority of what we do falls into the restorative category. When we are working on a multidisciplinary case that requires the input of several doctors, we lead the entire team to the end result, which is quality restorative dentistry on a sound foundation of teeth and/or dental implants.
So yeah, I think that the term general dentist slightly trivializes the role of the restorative dentist in comprehensive dental care and in simple, routine dental care. It has a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none” vibe to it. I think that’s unfortunate and it’s not true. General dentists are the leaders of the team when it comes to restorative dentistry.