Your dentist is the ideal resource for basic cleanings, fillings, and other preventive and routine dental health needs. But what about when you chip a tooth? Or have a terrible toothache? Or experience some kind of trauma to a tooth? Should you go to your dentist or an oral surgeon for care? What’s the difference between the two specialists?
Education & Training Requirements
Both dentists and oral surgeons have completed dental school after earning their bachelor’s degree. Dental school typically requires four years of study, including hands-on training in the clinical setting. After completing dental school, either the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree is awarded. Passing a licensure exam is required in order to practice.
For oral surgeons (formally known as “oral and maxillofacial surgeons”), training continues. Oral surgeons must complete a surgical residency (four to six years in duration) in order to receive proper training in oral pathology, oral surgery, anesthesia, and other areas of practice. Once the residency has been completed, the surgeon must pass a board certification exam.
What Does a Dentist Do?
A dentist provides general care, such as teeth cleaning, screening, x-rays, fillings, root canals, bridges, veneers, crowns, and other work. Simple tooth extractions are commonly done in the general dentist setting, while more complex extractions are referred to an oral surgeon.
What Does an Oral Surgeon Do?
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained to treat a wide range of conditions pertaining to the face, mouth, and jaw. Oral surgeons perform tooth extractions, wisdom teeth extraction, reconstructive dental surgery, soft tissue biopsy, dental implants, facial trauma treatment, bone grafting, and other complex procedures.
Should I See a Dentist or an Oral Surgeon?
If you have a routine dental need or are experiencing mild pain, call your general dentist for a consultation. If you are experiencing extreme pain or have an emergent condition, going directly to an oral surgeon may be the most effective path.
At Coyne Oral Surgery, every effort is made to accommodate patients for same-day treatment – especially when intense pain or critical injury is a concern.