Meet The Staff Of A Family Dentistry Practice

Visiting a dentist's office provides access to a full range of dental services. Some are provided by a general dentist, and others are completed by staff members. Finding a dentist you are comfortable with and keeping a regular care routine that includes maintenance visits is important for your long-term oral health. When receiving care, a dental hygienist, a dental assistant, and the general dentist may all be part of your treatment team, and they are crucial for the success of a family dentistry practice. 

Dental hygienists

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a comprehensive dental cleaning should be scheduled two times per year to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Most major dental insurance providers also cover two cleanings each year, making them a good use of your healthcare resources. When you visit the dentist for a cleaning, the actual work of removing tartar and polishing the teeth is accomplished by the dental hygienist. During these visits, the dentist may also pop in for a basic inspection of the teeth and gums or to examine any issues brought to their attention, but the contact is typically brief. 

Dental assistants

Small dental offices may have a more streamlined staff, but practices with a large patient volume generally have a dental assistant who handles a variety of routine tasks. When you have X-rays completed as part of a routine check-up or to examine a potential problem, the assistant may take those images and set up the examination room for the dentist. They can ask about issues and leave detailed notes for the dentist to review and assist with appointment management, according to Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School. During any procedures or repairs, they help the dentist and may take notes during the session to assist with logging issues or procuring follow-up care for a patient. 


For actual tooth repairs, such as fillings and caps, or developing a treatment plan for tooth decay or gum disorders, a general dentist is required. A dentist will review any X-rays taken during a visit and either provide corrective care when needed or start a referral to a specialist. Referrals would generally be to an endodontist for root canals or an oral surgeon for more complicated tooth extractions. A general dentist may opt to perform basic root canals and often performs basic extractions when required. However, some teeth, such as wisdom teeth, require gum incisions or optional anesthesia for a successful procedure. For these, a referral is often necessary unless specialists are also on staff at the family practice.

For more information, contact a dentist near you.