As the practice of dentistry matures in Singapore, people are more aware of the advances that have occurred since a decade ago to create or maintain a healthy and beautiful smile. More dentists have also gone on to sub-specialize so that they are able to provide their patients with a higher standard of care.
As such, the practice of multi-specialty dentistry or as the profession calls it, multi-disciplinary dentistry has become more widely accepted and sought after.
A multi-disciplinary dental practice encompasses different dental specialties practicing in the same clinic. A patient that requires complex work has the advantage of the different specialists attending to them in a coherent manner. Sometimes novel and more cost effective treatment plans can be derived when specialists work together.
The patient is not treated by one dentist but by a team of dental specialists who provide a deeper insight to solve the patient’s dental issues.
For example, most patients with gum disease have been told to remove teeth that give them a problem and replace the teeth with either dentures or implants. However, research has shown that even implants are not infallible. Implants too can contract gum disease especially if gum disease continues to exist in the other natural teeth. Also, gum disease tends to cause the bone in the jaws to be lost. Implants require a sufficient amount of bone to be present before they can be done. Hence, if there is insufficient bone, a grafting procedure needs to be done first before implants can be inserted. This makes the implant replacement a multi-stage, more complex procedure and increases the cost significantly. Sometimes too, the implants placed do not look natural when used in the gum disease patient due to advanced bone loss.
In this case, a better solution would be to use a combination of advanced gum treatment, orthodontics/braces treatment and then followed by implant therapy if there are teeth to be replaced. This is where the role of multi-disciplinary dentistry comes in.
A good example are the young patients with advanced gum disease. This occurs in a small but significant percentage of our Singapore population. The picture below is that of a 38-year old patient who consistently has gum swellings every now and again, bad breath and bleeding gums. Fortunately for him, gum treatment managed to save all his teeth and he needed no replacement.
Sometimes however, gum disease is silent. This young 29- year old patient did not have gum swellings or bleeding and his teeth looked relatively clean. However, he had already lost 1 of his molars and had several loose teeth. His front teeth had also drifted apart.
The picture beside shows clean teeth but gum disease present causing several loose teeth and recession of gums.
Most of the time, this patient’s gum disease would have gone unnoticed till he loses more teeth. The treatment then would be to extract all the loose teeth and perhaps even the front ones and replace them with either dentures, bridges or implants. Nowadays, we tend to try to treat early and keep as many natural teeth as possible by advanced gum treatment followed by light force orthodontics (braces) to shift these loose teeth into position.
It does take more time to achieve a good result but in the long term, the patient saves more money and has more natural teeth to last his lifetime especially since he is so young.
There are many other patients who can also benefit from multi-specialty dentistry as most complex aesthetic and functional dental problems involve several fields of dentistry. Also, as our population ages and people have other medical issues (such as stroke,cancer etc), sometimes they require a specialized dental team to take care of their dental needs as their medical condition will affect their dental health and make dental treatment a challenge.
Other special dental care that are provided by dental specialists are for the special needs patients such as those with autism, Down’s etc.
How do we know if the dentist is a specialist?
All dental specialists are registered under the dental specialists register with the Singapore Dental Council which can be checked online.