What’s The Difference Between a Dentist and an Oral Surgeon?

oral surgeon's office

Dentists and oral surgeons both work on teeth. But most people see their dentist twice a year and only see an oral surgeon if your dentist recommended one.

Dentists and oral surgeons do different things, but often collaborate:

  • A dentist extracts teeth easily pulled, but will refer you to an oral surgeon to have a wisdom tooth removed, or to have a dental implant placed in a missing tooth socket.
  • If your teeth or jaws do not align, your dentist might send you to an orthodontist first, so that the alignment can be corrected as much as possible before any surgery. Or, you might be sent to the surgeon first, who might recommend orthodontia or surgery as a first step, depending on your situation.
  • A dentist might send you to an oral surgeon if he or she sees a suspicious lesion in your mouth. An oral surgeon will perform a biopsy on the lesion, have it evaluated in a lab, and let you and your dentist know if it represents a concern.
  • If your dentist sends you to an oral surgeon, they will often send along x-rays and other information to reduce redundant work.

What Dentists Do

Dentists perform routine check-ups and monitor patients’ dental health. They fill cavities and treat early-stage gum disease, and educate patients about dental hygiene. They take x-rays, order and fit dentures, crowns and bridges, perform root canals and prescribe medications.

In order to become a dentist, a person needs a Doctor of Dentistry degree and must be licensed.

What Oral Surgeons Do

Dental surgeons see patients who have dental health issues that require surgery – we are more highly trained in the use of anesthesia than dentists. In fact, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are one of the few medical specialists and the only dental specialists that are mandatorily trained with the core knowledge and skills to administer IV sedation and general anesthesia. We take your safety and comfort during surgery very seriously.

At Wilmington Oral Surgery, we offer:

  • Dental Implants
  • Removal of Wisdom Teeth
  • Surgery for Orthodontics
  • Treatment for Advanced Gum Disease
  • Treatment of Oral Pathologies of the Face and Jaw
  • 3-D Cone Beam CT Surgery
  • Laser Surgery
  • Pediatric Oral Surgery
  • Facial Trauma Surgery
  • Reconstruction
  • Bone Grafting

Dental surgeons must have a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, as well as a license for our specialty. Part of our training includes completing a residency.

The Same But Different

While there is some overlap in what we do (for example, dentists extract teeth, and in our Single Day Implant Reconstruction we also extract teeth before placing implants), there are clear differences in our roles. Dentists, by and large, handle the everyday, and oral surgeons handle the rare.

One thing dentists and oral surgeons have in common is a passion for oral health. We both work to make sure your teeth, gums and jaws stay healthy to function properly and maintain your beautiful smile. We both prioritize prevention of infection and bone loss, because these problems can have life-threatening consequences long-term.

How Does One Know Whom to Call?

It never hurts to call your dentist first when you have a concern about your teeth, gums, jaw or face. It is also fine to call an oral surgeon first. Either way, the doctor’s staff will guide you in deciding an appropriate course of care. In cases of facial trauma, such as a car accident, you want to call 911 first and the paramedics/hospital will determine where you need to go.

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