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A full guide to seeing a dentist in Singapore

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Visiting a dentist is something many of us do not look forward to – at least for me – so it’s an experience that I try and limit to once a year. It’s not exactly fun to open your mouth and have your teeth and gums nudged and prodded at. However, making it to the chair doesn’t have to be dreadful with a good dentist.

Because dental care is compulsory for everyone, we often get questions like “should I go to a polyclinic to see a dentist?” and “should I see a specialist?” In this article, we will break down all the important things you need to know to see a dentist in Singapore.

“Dentist vs specialist?”

Dentists are also known as general practitioner (GP) dentists as they check and treat overall oral health, decayed teeth, cavities, fillings or extract bad teeth. In Singapore, GP dentists have to undergo and graduate from a four-year course at NUS Dentistry.

After graduation from NUS Dentistry, dentists have to practice in public for at least two years before undergoing an additional three-year specialist course of their choosing to become a specialist dentist. In general, there are seven dental specialties in Singapore:

1. Orthodontists – Specialise in the development and correction of your teeth, jaw and bite. They treat facial and dental irregularities, such as malocclusions also known as bad bites. Orthodontists are also the most qualified to do your braces treatment to straighten your teeth and correct your bit, using ceramic or metal braces, aligners, Invisalign etc.

2. Paedodontists – Specialise in the care of children’s teeth. Also known as paediatric dentists, they treat children from birth to 18 years old of age in general. They manage baby teeth oral care and treat problems such as nursing or baby bottle tooth decay.

3. Periodontists – Specialise in the structures of the teeth, gums and jawbone. Thus, they are most qualified to treat gum diseases, do tooth implants, jaw and gum surgery.

4. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMS) – Specialise in surgical procedures on the mouth, teeth, jaws and face. If you have a complex and buried wisdom tooth to be removed, an OMS is most qualified to operate and remove it. They also operate on root fracture, corrective jaw procedure, dental implants etc.

Also, read more about the cost of wisdom tooth extraction in Singapore!

5. Endodontists – Specialise in root canal and tooth pain management.

6. Prosthodontists – Specialise in dentures, bridges, crowns and restoration of tooth implants. If you have missing teeth, the most qualified specialist to help you would be a prosthodontist.

7 . Oral medicine – Specialise in oral lesions around the mouth, infection diseases with oral manifestations, oral cancer screening and treatments etc. This area of focus merges dentistry and medicine as oral problems and diseases can be symptoms for larger general health problems.

In general, when deciding between seeing a GP dentist or specialist, you should consider whether your dental issue is a serious or complex one that requires specialized expertise. If it is mentioned above, for e.g. root canal, braces, etc, you will more often than not need to see a dental specialist.

If in doubt, you may just visit a GP dentist and he or she will refer you to their specialist dentist colleagues if your dental problem is a complex one.

“Public hospital or private practice?”

Seeing a dentist in a public hospital would definitely cost less than seeing a dentist in private practice. This is because dental treatments at public hospitals are subsidized.

Opt for the public route if you would like to enjoy subsidized dental treatment rates and if you’re just looking to do basic services such as polishing and scaling. Do also expect a long waiting time. You may make an appointment to visit a dental polyclinic e.g. National Dental Centre, Singhealth Dental.

For more complex dental problems that require you to see a dental specialist, you may also visit any dental polyclinic to get a referral letter to see a dental specialist at subsidized rates. After getting your referral letter, you will need to wait for about 2 to 8 weeks to see the dental specialist, depending on the treatment you require.

Opt to see a dentist in private practice if you would like to enjoy a higher level of care and convenience in general. Private dental care varies quite greatly, from affordable dental clinic chains in the heartlands such as Q&M Dental to specialist dental clinics in the Orchard Road area. You can easily get an appointment with the dentist within 1 to 2 days and most clinic front desks also accept walk-ins.

For more complex dental problems, you may want to consider seeing a specialist directly in the area of expertise you require.

“How much does it cost to see a dentist in Singapore?”

If you see a dentist at a polyclinic, it will cost $14.10 to $24.90 for consultation fees for Singapore citizens. These rates are subsidized rates, but do anticipate some waiting time at the polyclinic to see the dentist there.

To see a dentist in private practice, it can cost $30 to $40 in consultation fees for affordable clinic chains and $50 – $80 for specialist dental clinics.

Read more about the cost to see a dentist in Singapore.

“How often should I see my dentist?”

You should always go for a regular dental check-up once every 6 months, and do polishing and scaling at least once a year to maintain good oral health.

Of course, if you experience problems with your teeth or gums, visit your dentist immediately to get them sorted out. Dental problems can be bothersome but let it fester and it could possibly lead to more serious issues (and become much more costly)!

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