Legacy Surgery
2071 Pro Pointe Lane
Harrisonburg, VA 22801

June 21, 2023

What is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Oral Surgeon?

What is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Oral Surgeon?

When it comes to oral healthcare, you may come across different dental professionals, each with unique specialties and areas of expertise. Understanding the difference between dentists and oral surgeons is crucial in determining which dental professional to address your specific oral health concerns. While both play crucial roles in ensuring your oral health, they differ in terms of their training, education, and the services they provide.

Training and Education

Becoming a dental professional requires years of education and training to ensure patients receive quality care. Dentists and oral surgeons undergo extensive educational programs, but their paths differ in duration and focus.

Dentists typically earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. These programs span four years of undergraduate study, followed by four years of dental school. During dental school, dentists acquire knowledge and skills in oral health, including anatomy, physiology, oral pathology, radiology, and preventive and restorative dentistry, while gaining practical experience through hands-on clinical training.

After completing their dental degree, aspiring oral surgeons undertake a residency program in oral and maxillofacial surgery, lasting between four to six years. This intensive program provides them with in-depth knowledge and clinical experience in surgical procedures involving the mouth, jaw, and facial structures. They learn advanced techniques for complex tooth extractions, dental implant placement, orthognathic surgery, facial trauma management, and more.

When to See a Dentist

Regular dental visits play a vital role in maintaining optimal oral health. It is generally recommended to see a dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings every six months. These routine visits allow your dentist to assess your oral health, identify potential issues early on, and provide appropriate preventive care.

You should schedule an appointment to see a general dentist if you experience:

  • Tooth Decay
  • Gum Disease
  • Bad Breath
  • Tooth Sensitivity
  • Broken or Chipped Tooth
  • Missing Teeth
  • Grinding Teeth
  • Plaque and Tartar Buildup

When to See an Oral Surgeon

While general dentists can address a wide range of dental issues, there are certain situations where a referral to an oral surgeon becomes necessary. Oral surgeons have received extensive training in surgical procedures involving the mouth, teeth, and jaw.

Here are some reasons to consult with an oral surgeon:

  • Complex Tooth Extractions
  • Corrective Jaw Surgery
  • Dental Implant Placement
  • Treatment of Facial Trauma
  • Oral Pathology
  • TMJ Disorders
  • Sleep Apnea

Overlap between Dentists and Oral Surgeons

While dentists and oral surgeons have distinct roles and areas of expertise, there is also some overlap in the procedures they may perform. By working together, they can provide patients comprehensive dental care, ensuring that each aspect of their oral health is addressed effectively. Dentists and oral surgeons often communicate and coordinate to deliver the best possible patient outcomes, emphasizing the patient's overall well-being and oral health.

What to do if You Don’t Know Who to See

If you're unsure whether to see a dentist or an oral surgeon for your specific dental or oral health concern, it's always best to seek guidance from your dentist or general practitioner. They can assess your condition and provide a referral to the appropriate specialist based on their expertise and the complexity of your case.

Oral Surgeon in Harrisonburg, VA

Choosing the right specialist for your dental or oral health needs is crucial for receiving the best care. When you visit Legacy Surgery in Harrisonburg, VA, you can expect personalized attention and a comprehensive evaluation of your condition. Dr. Kesecker and his experienced team understand the importance of getting patients to the right specialist for their specific needs.

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