Are Oral Surgeons Also Dentists?

The short answer is yes, oral surgeons are dentists. What makes them different from general dentists is that they have additional training that prepares them to perform additional procedures that a general dentist cannot.

If you’re looking for an oral surgeon or dentist near you, come to Kool Smiles. All of our 120+ locations throughout the country have general dentists, and many of them also have oral surgeons on site. If not, we can refer you to one in the area.

The best part is that our kid-friendly dentists and oral surgeons not only enjoy working with children to keep their smiles happy and healthy, but our dental care is affordable. We accept a variety of payment options, including most insurances, Medicaid, CareCredit, cash/credit and more.

To schedule your no-cost consultation with an oral surgeon or dentist at Kool Smiles, call 254-781-0553 today.

The Difference Between Dentists and Oral Surgeons

Let’s start with a look at training for dentists. Dentists are essentially doctors. They have earned either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree, which the American Dental Association calls basically the same thing. As part of their extensive education—four years of dental school after four years of undergraduate education—dentists learn to do the following:

  • Diagnose oral issues, often with the aid of X-rays and tests
  • Treat oral issues and develop those treatment plans
  • Promote oral health in patients of all ages as well as monitor their tooth and jaw development
  • Work with anesthetics as needed, most frequently local (like Novocaine) and topical (like a numbing cream)
  • Perform minor oral surgical procedures

Oral surgeons treat problems of the mouth, teeth, jaw and even the surrounding tissues in the head and neck that go beyond general care. When dental issues become severe, your child’s regular dentist will be the one to refer them to a surgeon.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons, or OMSs, typically complete an extra two years of education. During this time, they study alongside medical residents in a hospital setting to learn general surgery and anesthesiology (numbing) practices, with a special focus on the face and mouth. This experience, paired with general internal medicine training, makes oral surgeons particularly skilled at treating a number of issues, including wisdom tooth removal.

Keep reading to learn if you or your child needs an oral surgeon dentist.

Female dentist showing the young boy artificial jaw at the dental office

Dental Issues Treated by Oral Surgeons

Oral surgeons treat a variety of common and more severe dental issues. These issues can be caused by improper dental hygiene as well as birth defects, trauma and other conditions that may develop.

  • Wisdom teeth removal—Though general dentists can remove wisdom teeth, oral surgeons are usually brought in when the teeth become trapped between the jawbone and the gum tissue. Trapped wisdom teeth can cause permanent damage, which is why dentists recommend surgical removal.
  • Tooth loss and dental implants—When a tooth is missing and dentures or bridges won’t work, an implant may be used. The implant replaces the tooth root and has to be surgically attached to the jawbone to support the new tooth.
  • Jaw surgery—This may be needed if your child has temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) or if the jaws are unequal.
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate repair—This requires a series of treatments and a group of healthcare specialists, including an oral surgeon.
  • Snoring and sleep apnea—Surgery is an option for this condition when non-surgical approaches don’t work.
  • Anything requiring general anesthesia—Not all dentists provide general anesthesia, so if your procedure requires it, you may either get referred to an oral surgeon or have your anesthetic administration overseen by an oral surgeon at your dentist’s office.
  • Oral, head and neck pathology—Diagnosing and surgically treating oral, head and neck cancers falls within the domain of oral surgeons.

For more information on issues that oral surgeons treat, visit the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons website.

When to See a Dentist Instead of an Oral Surgeon

Here are a few common issues and procedures your dentist can handle:

  • Simple extractions—These are tooth removals that often require local anesthetic and no surgical tools.
  • Face and mouth pain—Your dentist will be the most affordable and effective resource for dealing with pain since they can either help address problems during your visit or refer you to someone who can.
  • Some jaw alignment issues—While it’s true that oral surgeons sometimes need to address jaw problems, orthodontists can help align bites too. Check with your dentist to find out which course of treatment is best for your child.

When Your Dentist Might Call in an Oral Surgeon

Dentists and oral surgeons often work together, especially if complications arise from simple procedures. Here are a few situations in which a dentist and oral surgeon might work together:

  • Your root canal reveals a deeper infection. If part of your tooth’s root needs to be removed due to infection, an oral surgeon will likely perform a procedure called a dental hemisection, which removes part of the root, or an apicoectomy, which removes the entire root.
  • Your crown requires a dental implant. Sometimes, while preparing your tooth for a crown, your dentist may realize that the root of your tooth is not a good anchor for the crown. In that case, an oral surgeon will step in to place an implant that your dentist will then fit with a crown. A dentist may also have an oral surgeon perform a crown lengthening procedure on a tooth to be crowned to make sure it’s able to securely hold the placement without an implant.
  • Your orthodontic treatment requires Temporary Anchorage Devices (TADS). Orthodontists often have surgeons in their offices to help place these small screws that help reposition teeth.
  • You have gingivitis that puts you at risk of periodontitis. Your dentist may have an OMS perform a gingivectomy to remove diseased tissue from your gums.
  • Your dentist finds you need a soft tissue graft. If you’re being treated for gum recession, sensitivity or an exposed root, your dentist may work with an oral surgeon to add more tissue to the affected area.

Find an Oral Surgeon Dentist for You or Your Child

If you think you or your child is in need of oral surgery, call 254-781-0553 to make an appointment with Kool Smiles for a no-cost consultation. Our dentists have years of experience working with children, and many of our offices have oral surgeons on staff. If your child needs oral surgery and your local Kool Smiles does not have one on staff, we’ll refer your child to a nearby surgeon who can help.

Kool Smiles believes all children deserve quality dental care. Call 254-781-0553 today to make an appointment at your local Kool Smiles office.

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Sources:

ADA: ada.org/en/about-the-ada/dentists-doctors-of-oral-health

WebMD: webmd.com/oral-health/guide/oral-surgery

Mayo Clinic: mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/symptoms-causes/syc-20350941

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: myoms.org/

WebMD: webmd.com/oral-health/need-oral-surgery#2

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: myoms.org/procedures/extractions-and-other-oral-surgeries