What Is a General Dentist?

You have to shop around for almost everything these days, and dentists are no different. A quick Google search of “dentists near me” reveals that not only are there dozens of offices in most towns, but there are also different types of dentists. Let’s take a look at the most common: What is a general dentist? 

What Is a General Dentist?

A general dentist is your primary dental health provider. They are the provider you go to every six months to a year for your check-up and comprehensive exams. When you have a dental concern in between visits, they are likely the provider you reach out to for an initial exam. If further examination is needed, they can then refer you to a specialist.

What Does a General Dentist Do?

Selecting a general dentist is a big decision to make—after all, you’ll be visiting at least once a year. They’ll be your go-to for most questions about your teeth for as long as you are seeing them, so you’ll need to be sure you trust your general dentist for your current and future health. 

A general dentist offers:  

  • Comprehensive exams
  • Cleanings
  • Periodontal care (For gingivitis and bone loss)
  • Crowns and bridges
  • Sealants
  • Teeth whitening
  • Cosmetic bonding
  • Dental implants
  • Orthodontia, in some cases
  • Emergency dental care

While all general dentists should be able to tackle most of the things on this list, not all provide the exact same services. For instance, at Mint Leaf Dentistry we offer Invisalign to clients who are interested and eligible, which is a service not all offices provide.

What Happens During a Visit to a General Dentist?

The specifics of a general dentist visit will depend on what you are making the visit for. Most of the time, you’ll be going to a general dentist for an annual comprehensive exam. If that’s the case, the visit will include:

  • A tooth-by-tooth exam
  • A periodontal exam for gum health
  • A bite evaluation
  • A cleaning and plaque removal 
  • A final exam by the dentist 
  • Follow-up appointments scheduled as needed
empty dental chair to help explain what is a general dentist

Why Should You See a General Dentist 

Making your yearly or bi-yearly appointment with your general dentist is key to keeping a beautiful smile—but it can also make all the difference in keeping yourself healthy. 

Maintain health

Maintenance is important for every aspect of your health, and your teeth are no exception. At an annual or biannual checkup, your general dentist will complete a comprehensive exam. As we discussed above, that means evaluating your mouth’s overall condition, noting any problem areas to keep an eye on, making recommendations for oral hygiene, and addressing any current issues such as plaque buildup or cavities. 

Preventative Care

Preventative care goes hand-in-hand with maintenance, the benefits of which can range from little to life-saving. At your regular visits, your general dentist will check for evidence of gum disease, the beginnings of cavities, built-up plaque that might otherwise lead to tooth decay, and even oral cancer. 

By screening for these things regularly, your general dentist is more likely to catch them early, when they are more treatable —saving way more than just your teeth in the process. 


A general dentist is also often a family dentist. That means you,  your spouse, and your children will be able to go to them for regular care and cleanings. 

You won’t have to worry about finding separate providers or driving around town wasting gas to get to each; instead, you’ll be able to totally trust your tooth care and that of your family to someone you already know and trust. 

How to Find the Right General Dentist

If you’re on the quest for the right general dentist for you and your family, the process may be overwhelming. In just one city there can be dozens of options, with little available information to go on to help you make the choice. To take some of that stress away, here’s a list of questions to ask yourself—and your potential provider—before picking one out. 

  • Do you know anyone who is an existing or prior patient of this general dentist? If so, do they have positive things to say about their experience?
  • How long has this general dentist been practicing? It may bring peace of mind to know your dentist has extensive experience.
  • How far do you want to drive each time you see your general dentist? Keep in mind you’ll likely be making the visit twice a year, and more if you’re bringing your kids to the same office, so you’ll want a convenient location. 
  • What additional services do they provide? Some general dentists offer services like Invisalign, tooth whitening, veneers, and partial or full dentures. If you are looking for something specific, be sure to check that your general dentist can provide those things.
  • Does this general dentist take your insurance? If you have dental coverage on your insurance plan, check to see which general dentists are in your network. 

You can also check out reviews online of the general dentists you are looking into, both on the practice’s website and on third-party sites like Yelp or Zocdoc. 

Other Types of Dentists

If you’re not sure that it’s a general dentist you’re looking for, let’s take a look at some of the other types of dentists you can turn to for more specific issues:

Pedodontist or Pediatric Dentist

A pedodontist or pediatric dentist is one who works specifically with children from birth through adolescence. They specialize in the needs of infants, children, and teenagers, providing compassionate care and a positive association with dental care which will carry on through their lives. 


Orthodontists are those who specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and correction of irregularities in teeth and jaw positions. This includes bite pattern correction and alignment. 


A periodontist specializes in the health of the tissue around your teeth, such as your gums. That includes treatment of gingivitis, periodontitis, and bone loss. 


Endodontists, also called “root canal specialists”, work primarily with the nerves, blood vessels, and other tissues deep inside each tooth.

Oral Surgeon

An oral surgeon handles surgeries and extractions involving the mouth and teeth. That includes basic tooth extractions, implant placement, and wisdom teeth removal. 


Prosthodontists specialize in prosthetic dentistry. Their training qualifies them to restore missing or damaged structures via prosthetics like dental implants, bridges crowns, bridges, and dentures. 

Most dentists are general dentists, who can help pinpoint an issue and direct you to someone who is more specialized if need be. Even if you need a specialist, you’ll also need a general dentist for regular checkups. It’s not uncommon for someone to have both a general provider and an orthodontist, for instance. 

Schedule Your General Dentist Consultation

Looking for a general dentist in Raleigh? Mint Leaf Dentistry has been providing families and individuals in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, and Morrisville with comprehensive and compassionate general dentistry services for years, with hundreds of smiles to show for it. 

Our general dentist services include comprehensive exams, teeth whitening, and Invisalign. No matter what you’re looking for, our team has the tools to create and maintain the smile of your dreams. 

Contact our Morrisville dentist at Mint Leaf Dentistry by calling 919-330-1710 or by booking with us online.