Choosing the Right Dental Specialist

We all are aware of what an important role our dentist plays in our overall oral health.  He or she  is your “go-to” clinician for routine procedures that include teeth cleanings, cavity fillings, sealants, crowns and other restorations.  To become a dentist, each has completed a post-graduate, four-year doctorate degree in dentistry.  For procedures outside the scope of their  training, a dentist will generally refer patients and coordinate treatment with a specialist.

For nearly 35 years, I have been a specialist, more specifically, an oral surgeon.  After five years of post-graduate education, I graduated from The University of Texas Health Science Center.  In 1983, I joined Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, earned my board-certification, and pursued my commitment to providing the best oral surgical care for my patients.  I can honestly tell you that I think I have seen it all.  I’ve seen patients in my office who have had remarkable dental work, including beautiful restorations and perfectly aligned teeth.   And, on the flip side, I have seen some very scary conditions as a result of inadequate dental care.  Unfortunately, these abominable dental cases are usually a result of patients trusting their care to general dentists who have become known as “super-generalists,” or super-general dentists.

Have you encountered a super-general dentist?  His or her office promotes itself as capable of handling all dental issues for the sake of time and convenience.  Before you agree to allow your general dentist to perform procedures, find out a few things:

  • Does your general dentist rightfully possess the necessary qualifications to perform the prescribed procedure?
  • Has your general dentist had post-graduate training to perform the procedure?
  • Is there a specialist in your community that specializes in the procedure that has been prescribed?
  • Does your general dentist have the right equipment and trained staff to perform the procedure?
  • Has your dentist enrolled in legitimate continuing education courses?
  • What is the motivation behind offering procedures beyond his or her training?


If you are not comfortable with the answers to the questions above, there are many dental specialists that are properly trained and prepared to treat you:

  •  Oral Surgeon: Experts in mouth, face and jaw surgery
  •  Periodontist:  Experts in treating periodontal disease (gums)
  •  Orthodontist: Experts in the treatment of improper bite and crooked teeth
  •  Pediatric Dentist:  Experts dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through 16 years old
  • Prosthodontist:  Experts in the esthetic restoration and replacement of teeth


When your general dentist refers you to a specialist, you can feel confident that he or she has your best interest at heart.  He acknowledges the limitations of his training and appreciates the expertise of a specialist.  So, before agreeing to advanced dental procedures in your general dentist’s office, consider consulting with a specialist.  Beware of the dentists that claim to do it all.  As an oral surgeon, I want all of my patients, family and neighbors to have the best treatment possible.  Seek second opinions and seek specialists.  And, if you have any doubts, feel free to contact me directly at


Dr. M. James Clark is a board-certified oral surgeon specializing in wisdom teeth extractions, implant dentistry and the treatment of other conditions of the mouth, face and jaw.  Dr. Clark practices at the Technology Forest office of Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

Dr. Zahid Lalani has fulfilling experience volunteering at The Connecticut Mission of Mercy

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – The Connecticut Mission of Mercy organizes a two-day clinic annually that provides free dental care to the underserved, the working poor and uninsured who are those that would otherwise go without dental care. Dr. Zahid Lalani, a board-certified oral surgeon, proudly volunteered in March 2015 at the two-day dental clinic.

“It was an overwhelming experience,” said Dr. Zahid Lalani. “The sheer number of people waiting for dental care, the gratitude that they showed and the enthusiasm of all the volunteers and dental professionals was incredible.”

While a MBA candidate at Yale University, Dr. Lalani was introduced to the outreach program and its tremendous impact on the community by Dr. Suzanne Lagarde, his friend and classmate at Yale University School of Management. Dr. Lagarde, a gastroenterologist by training, has been in charge of the medical triage at the clinic for the past 8 years. Dr. Lalani committed to her that he would volunteer as an oral surgeon at the clinic every year after they finished school in 2014.

Oral health is inseparable from general health. It can affect a person’s self-esteem, compromise his or her ability to work, attend school and lead a normal life. The Connecticut Foundation for Dental Outreach, in collaboration with the Connecticut State Dental Association, held the state’s first Mission of Mercy project in 2008. Every year the Connecticut Mission of Mercy project holds the two-day dental clinic in a different location throughout the state. This year, the dental clinic was held in Danbury, Connecticut. Despite the bitter cold and snow, a total of 1,997 patients were treated by 1,321 volunteers. It was truly a success!

“Volunteering at The Connecticut Mission of Mercy was one of the most fulfilling and humbling experiences in my life. I plan to return each year to serve those in need and to deliver on a promise to a friend,” stated Dr. Lalani.

Dr. Zahid Lalani, a board-certified oral surgeon, practices the full scope of his specialty at the Louetta office of Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.