Oral Surgeon vs Dentist: What’s the Difference?

Posted on June 8, 2021

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There are many oral care providers such as oral surgeons and general dentists, making it difficult to know which is right for you. While both professionals complete dental school and are certified to treat patients, there are key differences.

General dentists serve as primary care providers for dental medicine. These professionals tend to perform fillings, crowns and cleaning procedures. On the other hand, oral surgeons execute all surgical procedures including complicated surgeries that treat a variety of conditions affecting the mouth, face, and jaw. Many of these procedures are beyond the scope of a dentist’s expertise.

To help you better determine which oral care professional to see, we outline the differences between oral surgeons and dentists below.

What Is a Dentist?

Dentists are medical professionals who specialize in oral health. They are educated in anatomy and physiology, and gain hands-on experience treating dental problems through a clinical practicum. Before treating patients, they must earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) degree and pass their state’s licensure exam. Dentists are responsible for screening for dental problems and performing simple procedures to keep the teeth and gums healthy.

Some common services and procedures offered by dentists include:

  • Teeth cleaning
  • X-rays
  • Fillings
  • Root canals
  • Crowns
  • Bridges

What Is an Oral Surgeon?

Oral surgeons are dental specialists that receive more training than general dentists. They go through the same education as a dentist, earning either a DDS or DMD degree. Afterward, oral surgeons go through additional training in a hospital-based surgical environment. At these placements, they gain hands-on experience with oral surgery, oral pathology, and anesthesia. Oral surgeons specialize in surgical care and more complicated procedures treating the mouth, face, and jaw.

Some common services and procedures offered by oral surgeons include:

Benefits of Seeing an Oral Surgeon

Some services are offered by both dentists and oral surgeons, so why should you see an oral surgeon for those procedures? While both providers may be qualified to treat a problem, oral surgeons have more hands-on expertise and training when it comes to complex protocols. This means that they have experience in managing any complications that arise and are overall more knowledgeable in surgical procedures.

For example, it is better to see an oral surgeon for wisdom teeth removal as they are trained specifically in complicated extractions. Oral surgeons have practice dealing with complicated surgeries through their residency. It is likely that any surgical procedure performed occasionally by a general dentist is performed routinely by an oral surgeon, which leads to better outcomes.

Oral surgeons can also help treat underlying conditions beyond the surface problem as they are experts in the mouth, face, and jaw. During the procedure itself, oral surgeons are thoroughly trained in administering anesthesia and IV sedation as a part of their surgical residency. This allows for greater pain management options for complex procedures as opposed to general dentists.

Dentist vs Oral Surgeon: Main Takeaways

Good dentists will diagnose and treat the conditions they feel comfortable with and refer patients to a specialist for more complicated procedures. It is difficult for dentists to be experienced in a wide range of complex treatments that they only had limited exposure to in dental schooling. Oral surgeons have specialized training, years of surgical experience, and exposure to complications that make them the preferred choice for routine and complicated oral procedures.

By Amir Marashi

Amir Marashi, MD, DDS received his undergraduate training at Mercer University in Atlanta where he was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. He attended dental school at the University of Minnesota where he earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree with distinction.

Dr. Marashi completed his oral and maxillofacial surgery residency at Louisiana State University and the University of Rochester. He also attended medical school at Louisiana State University where he received his Doctor of Medicine degree Cum Laude, followed by a year of medical residency.

After residency, Dr. Marashi joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the department of surgery at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, training oral and maxillofacial surgery residents. Dr. Marashi is board certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

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