Dentist or Oral Surgeon: When to Visit Each?
Patients have many options in dental providers, and the decision of which type of dental professional is best for your current needs can be tricky. Understanding the differences between general dentists and oral surgeons can help you make an informed choice for dental care. Depending on your needs or the needs of your family, you may need to see both a dentist and an oral surgeon.
A dentist (DDS degree, Doctor of Dental Surgery or DMD degree, Doctor of Dental Medicine) has completed 4-5 years of higher education and can diagnose and treat conditions and diseases of the mouth, as well as perform minor surgical procedures such as simple incisions and extractions.
General Dentistry Clinical Practice
General dentists are primary care providers for dental medicine. They diagnose, manage, and treat your overall oral health, and often make recommendations for how to prevent common dental problems. Dentist offices provide teeth cleaning, X-rays, and a comprehensive screening for dental problems. They also provide dental fillings, veneers, bridges, crowns, and gum care. Although a general dentist may perform simple tooth extractions, more complex surgeries may be outside of the scope of a general dentist’s competence.
An oral surgeon also has a DDS or DMD degree, but must complete 4 to 8 years of additional training, such as a surgical residency, after dental school. Oral surgeons sometimes complete an additional medical degree.
Oral Surgery Clinical Practice
An oral surgeon is the oral health care provider who performs surgical procedures in and about the entire face, mouth, and jaw area. A general dentist will often refer a patient to an oral surgeon when a problem is beyond the scope of the dentist’s expertise. An oral surgeon may perform dental implants, simple tooth extractions, complex extractions (removal of soft tissue, bone or roots), wisdom teeth removal, soft tissue biopsies, removal of oral cavity tumors, complex jaw realignment surgeries, reconstructive dental surgery, fractured jaw bone or cheek repair, and cleft palate repair surgery.
Understanding the difference between a general dentist and an oral surgeon can save you time when making the right decision for dental care. Remember to bring along an updated medical history. Explain any recent health issues, even if they seem unrelated to your mouth’s health. A healthy smile is the gateway to good health, but it is also a way to feel more confident. Call us today for questions about your smile.