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How to Choose a New Family Dentist in Harrisonburg

What is the difference between a general dentist and a family dentist?

When choosing your new family dentist in Harrisonburg, it’s important to understand the difference between a general dentist and a family dentist, as this can influence your decision based on your specific needs.

A general dentist is primarily focused on adult dental care and offers a range of services, including check-ups, cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges, and sometimes more specialized procedures like root canals and cosmetic dentistry. Their training allows them to treat a wide variety of dental issues, and they are an excellent choice for adult patients.

On the other hand, a family dentist, such as Smallwood Dental Solutions, is similar to a general dentist but with an additional focus on treating patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. This makes our Harrisonburg family dentist office particularly convenient for families looking for a single dentist to manage the dental health of all family members. They are trained to address age-specific dental issues and often provide a more child-friendly environment that can help in managing younger patients. However, it’s important to note that all Family Dentists perform general dentistry, they just do it for a wider range of patients.

Choosing between a Harrisonburg general dentist and a family dentist depends largely on your personal or family’s dental needs. If you have children and are looking for a practice that can grow with your family, a family dentist might be more beneficial. For individual adult care, a general dentist would typically suffice.

What's the difference between and DDS and a DMD?

When you’re choosing a new family dentist in Harrisonburg, you might notice that dentists have either “DDS” (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or “DMD” (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine) listed after their names.

These designations can be confusing, but they essentially represent the same qualifications for practicing dentistry. Both DDS and DMD degrees require the same amount of schooling—typically a four-year postgraduate program following an undergraduate degree. The curriculum for both degrees includes comprehensive study and practice covering all aspects of dental care, including diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of oral diseases.

The difference in the degree names stems from the history of the institutions that grant them. The DDS degree is the original dentistry degree and was established by the first dental school in the world, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, which later merged with the University of Maryland.

As new dental schools were established, some chose to award the DMD degree to differentiate themselves or to emphasize the medical aspects of dental education, as suggested by the alternative name Doctor of Dental Medicine. Regardless of whether a dentist holds a DDS or DMD degree, they must pass the same national and state licensing exams to practice dentistry. Both degrees qualify dentists to perform the same procedures and hold the same responsibilities toward patient care.

When looking for a dentist in Harrisonburg, the distinction between DDS and DMD should not be a major factor in your decision. Instead, focus on the dentist’s experience, the services they offer, and reviews from other patients to ensure you find a dentist who meets your specific needs.

How often should I see my Harrisonburg Family Dentist and why?

Regular visits to our office are crucial for maintaining optimal oral health. Most people visit the dentist every six months, but depending on individual oral health conditions, we might suggest more frequent visits. Regular visits to our practice are important for several reasons:

  • Prevention: Regular check-ups help prevent dental issues such as cavities and gum disease by allowing early detection and management.
  • Cleaning: Dental cleanings remove plaque and tartar that brushing and flossing alone cannot eliminate. This helps prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease.
  • Early Detection of Dental Issues: Frequent visits allow Dr. Smallwood to spot early signs of problems like tooth decay, gum disease, and even more severe conditions like oral cancer.
  • Maintenance of Previous Dental Work: If you have fillings, crowns, dental implants, or dentures, Dr. Smallwood needs to check that everything is in good order and functioning correctly.
  • Advice and Guidance: Regular visits provide an opportunity to get professional advice on oral hygiene, dietary choices, and other behaviors that affect oral health.

For families who need a new dentist in Harrisonburg, having a family dentist who can monitor the dental health of all family members over time is invaluable. These visits are not just about checking for problems, but also about building a history of your family’s dental health, which can be beneficial for long-term care and treatment planning.

What happens at my new dental patient appointment?

A new patient appointment in our Harrisonburg dental office is a comprehensive session designed to establish your dental health baseline and address any immediate concerns you might have. Here’s what typically happens during this initial visit:

  • Patient Registration: You’ll provide personal information and your medical history, including any current medications, allergies, and past surgeries or treatments that may affect your dental care.
  • Dental History and Concerns: You’ll discuss your dental history and any specific concerns or symptoms you might be experiencing. This helps us tailor the examination and treatment plan to your needs.
  • Oral Examination: Dr. Smallwood will conduct a thorough examination of your teeth, gums, and mouth. This includes checking for signs of decay, gum disease, and other oral health issues. They might also assess your jaw alignment and look for signs of wear or problems with your bite.
  • X-rays: Depending on your dental history and the initial visual examination, we may take X-rays to get a deeper insight into your dental health, particularly to identify issues that are not visible to the naked eye, such as impacted teeth, jawbone damage, or decay between teeth.
  • Cleaning: One of our dental hygienists often performs a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar buildup, polish teeth, and floss. This not only helps maintain oral hygiene but also gives the dentist a cleaner environment to identify potential issues.
  • Treatment Planning: Based on the examination and X-rays, Dr. Smallwood will discuss any necessary dental treatments with you. This could range from fillings for cavities to more complex procedures like root canals or orthodontics. They will also provide advice on preventive measures you can take to maintain or improve your oral health.
  • Questions and Guidance: You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any concerns you might have. Dr. Smallwood might provide guidance on brushing techniques, dietary suggestions, and other lifestyle choices that affect dental health.

The goal of this appointment is to assess and treat immediate dental issues and develop a continuing care plan to help maintain dental health. For anyone looking to choose a new family dentist in Harrisonburg, ensuring that this first visit is thorough and informative is key to establishing a good patient-dentist relationship.

Yes, dental problems can significantly affect your overall health, making it crucial to maintain good oral hygiene and have regular check-ups. Here are some ways in which dental issues can impact general health:

  • Heart Disease: Research suggests a link between oral conditions like gum disease and heart disease. Periodontal disease’s inflammation may increase the risk of heart disease and worsen existing heart conditions. Bacteria from your mouth can also enter the bloodstream, potentially leading to arterial plaque formation.
  • Diabetes: Gum disease is often more severe and progresses more rapidly in people with diabetes, and it can also make diabetes harder to control. Inflammation in the gums can interfere with the body’s ability to utilize insulin, making proper dental care crucial for diabetic patients.
  • Respiratory Infections: Bacteria in the mouth from infected teeth and swollen gums can be breathed into the lungs or travel there through the bloodstream, leading to respiratory infections, pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Pregnancy Complications: Gum disease has been linked to pregnancy complications such as premature birth and low birth weight. The theory is that oral bacteria release toxins, which reach the placenta through the mother’s bloodstream and interfere with the development and health of the unborn child.
  • Dementia: Poor oral health may also be a contributing factor in the development of dementia. The bacteria from gingivitis may enter the brain through either nerve channels in the head or through the bloodstream, possibly leading to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

What does a professional dental cleaning involve?

Regular dental visits and proper oral care are essential components of your overall healthcare strategy. If you’re selecting a new dentist in Harrisonburg, consider one who understands the broader health implications of dental care and integrates preventive advice and treatments that contribute to your long-term well-being.

A dental cleaning, often performed during a routine visit to your Harrisonburg family dentist, is a crucial component of maintaining oral health. Here’s what typically happens during this procedure:

  • Examination: Before the actual cleaning process begins, your hygienist will examine your mouth. This preliminary check-up looks for signs of inflamed gums, tooth decay, and other potential issues. If needed, the examination might include dental X-rays.
  • Removing Plaque and Tartar: The hygienist will carefully remove plaque and tartar around your gum line and between your teeth using a scaler. Plaque is a sticky, soft film that contains bacteria, which hardens into tartar if not removed. Due to its hardened state, tartar can only be professionally removed.
  • Cleaning: After the tartar is removed, the dental professional will use a high-powered electric brush and gritty toothpaste to gently scrub each tooth. This step helps remove any residue from the scaling process and polishes the teeth, which contributes to a smoother tooth surface that is more resistant to plaque accumulation.
  • Expert Flossing: Whether you floss regularly at home or not, nothing beats an expert flossing session. Your dental hygienist can get deep between your teeth and locate any potential trouble spots where you might bleed at the gums.
  • Rinsing: Next, you’ll rinse your mouth to remove debris. The rinse usually contains liquid fluoride to aid in cleansing.
  • Fluoride Treatment: The final step is a fluoride treatment. This treatment is used as a protectant for your teeth to help fight against cavities for several months. The fluoride may be delivered in the form of a gel, foam, or varnish, and it’s usually left on your teeth for a minute or more.

Regular dental cleanings are essential not just for keeping your teeth and gums healthy, but also for preventing more serious health issues. They also provide a chance for your dentist in Harrisonburg to identify early signs of problems and act before they become major. To decide if Smallwood Dental Solutions is your best choice for a new family dentist in Harrisonburg, call us to schedule an initial consultation, and let’s get to know each other!

Our Patients Love us!


I’ve been a regular with Dr. Smallwood since they first came to Harrisonburg some years ago and I can highly recommend them. Where would my teeth be without them?

" - Skip T.

I have been going to this practice for ten years. They have always shown kindness, friendliness, and caring. Thank you for taking the time, and your expertise in guiding me to a healthier smile.

" - Jeannie H.

I enjoyed every minute of my appointment. Everyone is so nice. They not only deliver superb dental care, they treat the patient as a real human person, not just a mouth. I went home inspired, threw out the peanut brittle, and started to faithfully use my waterpik.

" - Susan A.