What is the Difference Between Dental Surgery and Oral Surgery?

Learn about the difference between dental surgery & oral surgery - what they are capable of performing & when you should see an oral surgeon.

What is the Difference Between Dental Surgery and Oral Surgery?

Dental surgery and oral surgery are both capable of performing tooth extractions and other basic surgeries. However, oral surgeons often handle more complex surgeries and extractions, such as wisdom teeth. For a simple tooth extraction or implant placement, you may have the option of seeing either a dentist or an oral surgeon. An oral surgeon is qualified to treat a variety of problems, including complications of wisdom teeth, retained teeth, facial injuries, birth defects, jaw misalignment, and bone loss in the jaw.

Many of the procedures performed by an oral surgeon are also offered in the office of a local general dentist. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons receive specialized training to treat a variety of conditions affecting the face, mouth and jaw. At the general dentist's office, you can receive teeth cleaning, x-rays, and a comprehensive exam to check for dental problems. Patients who need dental extractions or implants may also need the care and attention of an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

In dental school, which generally takes four years of full-time study, students take courses in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, and oral surgery. Patients have a variety of options when it comes to dental providers, and it can be difficult to know which type of dental professional is best for their current needs. However, most people see a dentist twice a year and only see an oral surgeon if their dentist recommends it. Like a family doctor who can handle a variety of health care problems, a general dentist can diagnose and treat most basic dental problems.

Dentists with DDS degrees have the same basic education as DMDs, typically four years of full-time study in anatomy, physiology, oral pathology, and preventive dentistry. While a general dentist can perform simple tooth extractions, more complex surgeries may be beyond the scope of a general dentist's competence. During their studies, dentists also receive hands-on training in diagnosing and treating dental problems through hands-on clinical experience. DMD stands for Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine depending on the university offering the degree. Patients are usually referred to an oral surgeon when a problem is beyond the scope of a general dentist's experience.

Both general dentists and oral surgeons must complete dental school after receiving a bachelor's degree.