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On this page you'll find resources to learn more about your dental visit and answers to questions you may have.

An Overview

It's easy to keep your teeth and gums in good health. A simple routine of brushing and flossing teeth every day, establishing good eating habits and having regular dental visits can prevent most dental problemssaving you dollars and discomfort.

But even if you do a thorough job brushing and cleaning between your teeth each day, your teeth need and deserve a regular professional cleaning at the dental office. Professional cleaning helps remove stains and tartar from your teeth, helps prevent gum disease and keeps your smile looking great!

Importance of Regular Visits

The following are just some of the reasons why it's important to see your dentist regularly. Learn more about these and other topics at www.YourMouthIsTalking.org, the MDA website for oral health information.

Periodontal Disease

  • Periodontal (gum) disease affects 3 out of 4 adults at some time in their lives. It doesn't necessarily hurt and you may not even be aware that you have it until an advanced stage. Regular dental visits are essential for detecting periodontal disease before the gums and the supporting bone are irreversibly damaged.

Oral Cancer

  • During a dental examination, your dentist can screen for precancerous changes in the oral tissues and thus help detect cancer at a stage when it can be more successfully treated.

Oral Health, Total Health

  • Regular check-ups are important because some diseases or medical conditions have signs that can appear in the mouth. Diabetes, nutritional and vitamin deficiencies and hormonal irregularities are some examples.

Tooth Decay

  • Detecting tooth decay early can save time, money and your teeth! Your dentist will check for decay, including secondary decay around old fillings and decay of tooth roots, which become exposed with age or due to periodontal disease.


  • If you wear dentures, it's important for your dentist to periodically check them for proper fit. Although they were made to fit precisely, dentures can become loose due to naturally occurring changes in your gums and bones.

Cosmetic Options

  • Because of the many advances in dentistry—such as bonding, veneers, enamel shaping, and bleaching—you no longer have to settle for stained, chipped or misshapen teeth.

Practicing Dentistry in Missouri

To practice dentistry in Missouri, a dentist must be licensed by the Missouri Dental Board. To receive a license, a dentist must:

  • Be a graduate of and hold a DDS or a DMD degree from an accredited dental school.
  • Have passed national and state board examinations.
  • Hold current certification in or basic life support (BLS) for healthcare professionals.

Licenses are for two years. To renew a license, a dentist must have successfully completed 50 continuing education hours during this time block.

Tips for Choosing a Dentist

You and your dentist are partners in maintaining your oral health. Take time to ask questions and take notes if that will help you remember your dentist's advice.

Why choose an MDA member:

  • More than 75% of Missouri dentists are MDA members; 7 of 10 dentists are ADA members. Representing the majority of dentists, both Associations can be an effective advocate for patients and the profession.
  • We help members keep current with the latest dental information to provide the best-possible patient care.
  • When dentists become MDA members, they agree to adhere to high ethical standards of conduct. These standards are embodied in the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct.
  • Look for an MDA member dentist in the Find A Dentist directory.

Consider the following to determine if a dentist is right for you:

  • Is the appointment schedule convenient for you?
  • Is the office easy to get to from your home or job?
  • Does the office appear to be clean, neat and orderly?
  • Was your medical and dental history recorded and kept in a file?
  • Does the dentist explain techniques that will help you prevent dental health problems? Is dental health instruction provided?
  • Are special arrangements made for handling emergencies outside of office hours? Most dentists make arrangements with a colleague or emergency referral service.
  • Is information provided about fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled?

Comparison Shopping

Feel free to call around the community to compare such factors as location, office hours, fees and what arrangements will be made in case of emergency. If you are comparing fees, ask for estimates on full-mouth x-rays and a preventive dental visit that includes an oral exam and teeth cleaning.

What's in a Name

When you look at a dentist's name on an office sign, in the phone book or on a business card, you might notice some acronyms following the last name that can be confusing. Here's some information to help you decode these.

What's the difference between DDS and DMD?

  • The DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees with the same education. The majority of dental schools award the DDS degree; however, some award a DMD degree.

What do FAGD, FACD or FICD mean?

  • This usually indicates a doctor is a "Fellow" in an organization.
  • To be recognized as such, they either complete a certain number of CE hours and take a test or are "invited" to join.
  • For example, a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) has completed a minimum of 500 continuing education hours, passed a comprehensive exam and has been an AGD member for three continuous years. A Fellow in the American (or International) College of Dentists is "invited" to join the College as an acknowledgement of leadership, excellence, and meritorious achievement in dentistry or public service.

What do "Diplomate" or Diplomat" of a Board mean?

  • This usually indicates a dentist whose credentials have been verified, who has successfully completed voluntary examinations and who demonstrates unique knowledge and skill at a standard not possessed by other dentists.
  • This usually requires an annual renewal fee for certification.
  • An example is a "Diplomate" of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry or a "Diplomat" of the American Dental Board of Anesthesiology.

What do PC or LLC mean?

  • This designation refers only to the dental practice business structure.
  • Licensed Missouri dentists may practice in one of the following forms: Sole Proprietorship; Partnership; Professional Dental Corporation (PC); or, Dental Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Dental Specialties

A specialty is an area of dentistry that has been formally recognized by the ADA in areas where advanced knowledge and skills are essential to maintain or restore oral health. In addition to four years of dental school, two or more additional years of dental specialty education are required. There are nine recognized specialties:

  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics

Learn more about the definitions of dental specialties and the specialty national organizations.

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