July 9, 2019

What is a General Dentist? Learn How a General Dentist Can Help You


In my previous blog, I covered the “7 Different Types Of Dentists And How They Can Help You” to provide a basic overview of each of the most common types of dentists. Now, let’s begin to drill down to learn more about each type of dentist, the education needed, review a day in the life, learn about the different dental procedures and review some commonly asked questions that my patients ask. Let’s start with what is a general dentist and what do general dentists do?

What is a General Dentist?

The most common dentist is a general dentist. In fact, approximately 79% of all dentists in the US can be considered general dentists and some wonder what general dentists do. We learn to perform most dental procedures except for very complicated advanced dental procedures which require additional training, degrees or certifications. General dentists serve on the front line of diagnostic and preventative procedures for the public. We can diagnose and recognize the early stages of dental disease in the patient’s mouth and treat the disease before the condition progresses too far. We partner closely with our patients to educate and help them with their oral hygiene homecare regimen, which in turn will prevent disease in the future. We believe that healthier results for patients’ oral conditions will occur when they also invest in their own dental health.

General Dentist Education Needed

Dental school entrance requirements differ in some countries, but in the United States an undergraduate college degree and a list of prerequisite classes are required before entrance into dental school. The specific undergrad major is not important just as long as the student completes the required prerequisite classes. The dental school educational requirements are very similar to those for medical school, and many people don’t know that dental students study their initial core classes alongside medical students. These classes include, but are not limited to, biology, psychology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and physiology. I earned my undergraduate degree in biology at Brown University, so I experienced an advantage since many of the required, pre-dental classes were already included in that major. A multiple choice standardized test – called the Dental Admission Test or DAT – is also required for entrance into dental schools in the United States and Canada. The test includes a wide range of questions that cover knowledge on biology, chemistry, perceptual ability, reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning. 

One of the most interesting parts of the test for me was the perceptual ability portion. I saw a series of unfolded boxes similar to the below image with different designs on each face. Then I viewed choices at different angles showing what the box would look like if totally assembled. A completely different part of your brain was needed for that section compared to the chemistry section! Alas, the art and science of dentistry converge. The mouth is not a flat, monoplane area. Teeth and the jaw structure have curves and depth that have to be reproduced to look natural and function well for the patient. A strong ability in this area translates very well to becoming a great dentist.


Once students pass the competitive process, they are accepted to dental school, which is generally a four year program. The first year includes all science classes, including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology and pharmacology. In the second year students start to experience some diversity of classes specifically designed for what general dentists do, including dental and oral anatomy, oral pathology and oral histology. We also begin to practice our skills on dental patients, starting with basic oral health care instruction and treatment. The second year student performs work on dental models of the mouth and teeth, usually in wax or stone. This trains the hand/eye coordination on an item as small as a tooth for the budding dentists.

The last two years of dental school include elective classes, rotations in the different specialties of dentistry, including hospital and emergency settings, and clinical treatment in different dental settings. Students get to experience and explore the different types of dentists to determine where we want to focus our future career efforts, and learn what is a general dentist and what do general dentists do on a daily basis.

A Day in the Life of a General Dentist

A typical day in my office definitely begins with everyone drinking coffee! Then we conduct a morning huddle at the front desk to discuss all of the patients scheduled that day for cleanings, digital X-rays, examinations (initial, emergency or periodic) or dental treatment. We ensure patients have taken their medicine before their visits and assess if any patients require additional preparation, such as a ramp for those who may use a wheelchair. We also ensure any lab cases have been received in the office before we schedule them. Then we start the day.

The hygienists update changes in patient’s health histories, take digital X-rays and then treat their patients, either for gum treatment or regular cleanings depending on the health of their gums. I visit the patient during the cleaning to address any issues with their mouth and schedule follow-up treatments, if needed. The dentists, including myself, will see our patients in the treatment room that the assistant prepared for the day’s given procedure. 

After the clinical personnel completes their care, the front desk staff will submit the patient’s insurance electronically, if needed, check the patients out and schedule their next appointment. 

General Dentist Procedures

Since many wonder what do general dentists do on a daily basis, it may surprise some that general dentists learn over a hundred different procedures. Just one look at the dental insurance codebook will illustrate this and some categories include:

Some Common Questions about General Dentists:

Can a General Dentist Perform an Extraction?

General dentists learn how to perform extractions and gum or oral surgery. Some dentists love it and perform frequent surgeries, while other dentists focus only on cosmetics and refer the surgeries to other dental providers. It’s all a matter of preference.

Can a General Dentist do Implants?

Any general dentist can perform the placement of dental implants, although it is advised to have had additional implant surgery training from an accredited advanced learning center. Once again it’s a matter of preference. 

Do General Dentists do Root Canals?

General dentists train to perform root canals, although once again it’s a matter of preference.

Can General Dentists do Braces?

Any general dentist can do braces or invisalign services, and it’s best practice that the dentist receives additional training. 

See One of the Best Dentists in Coral Gables, FL

Thank you for reading our blog about general dentists. If you’re searching for a “general dentist near me” and you’re in the Miami, Coral Gables, Kendall, or other South Florida areas, be sure to come see us! If you have additional questions about the information provided or you have questions about general dentists that weren’t addressed, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Whether you need a general dentist, cosmetic dentist, periodontist, endodontist, orthodontist, oral surgeon, prosthodontist or  pedodontist, the team at South Gables Dental can help! 

You can contact us to schedule an appointment for all of your Coral Gables or Miami dentist needs.

Looking to learn more about other types of dentists? Read this blog on the 7 Different Types of Dentists.


I’m Dr. Lawrence Lesperance, a dentist in Coral Gables who specializes in preventative dentistry, general dentistry services, and cosmetic dentistry services. My team and I provide personalized dental services for the whole family and offer orthodontic treatments, implant dentistry, periodontic services and botox treatments (for TMJ and migraines and cosmetic botox) and much more. Contact us to experience the South Gables Dental difference today!

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