When you visit the dentist, you often meet many staff members, each of whom is responsible for one or more aspects of your oral health care. When choosing a dental professional to provide a specific service, however, many patients may not understand the difference between a dentist and an oral surgeon. It is an important distinction that could affect the outcome of your dental procedure.
Role of a dentist:
Dentists are responsible for maintaining good oral health and are aware of your entire oral health history. What you can expect when visiting the dentist is a thorough cleaning with a dental hygienist, a full dental exam (where they will inspect your teeth, gums and probe between the gum lines looking for decay or deep pockets), scaling (a procedure used to remove extremely stubborn build up), oral cancer screenings, fluoride treatments, x-rays to look for any problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye and sealants (if applicable to your child). If your dentist notices any abnormalities (i.e. gum disease or extremely deep pockets between your teeth and gums) they will refer you to an oral/maxillofacial surgeon who will examine these issues further.
Role of an oral surgeon:
If your dentist refers you to an oral surgeon, it does not necessarily mean you have a challenging case to treat…it simply means there is a specialized surgeon who can adequately treat your case better than a general practitioner. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons focus on treating problems related to the hard and soft tissues of the face, mouth, and jaws. You might need oral surgery for something as common as dental implants or for the treatment of a tumours or cysts in your jaw.
Here are some reasons why you may need to visit an oral surgeon:
- Dental Implants: As an alternative to dentures, you would see an oral surgeon if you wanted implants to replace any broken or missing teeth.
- Impacted teeth: If your teeth are impacted or fully below the gum line, you would need to see an oral surgeon who will administer a general anesthetic who will cut into the jaw line to remove the teeth.
- Cracked or fractured teeth: If you have teeth that are already cracked or fractured and are likely to break more during the extraction, you would see an oral surgeon who is trained in the delicate procedure of removing cracked or fractured teeth.
- Complications during extractions: If your tooth has complex roots or develops cracks, an oral surgeon may be called in to minimize discomfort and the risk for further complications.
- Sufferers from dental anxiety: Regardless of the physical situation with your tooth, some patients prefer to be asleep for an extraction if they suffer from dental anxiety or a fear of going to the dentist. In this case, an oral surgeon is needed to administer general anesthesia.
Getting teeth removed and deciding whether to get a dental implant procedure is a big step. We recommend talking with your dentist first. Your dentist can assess your situation and recommend the oral surgeon or dental specialist that is most suited for you.
If you need any further clarity, drop by one of our locations to speak to one of our dental team.