Oral Surgeon vs. Orthodontist — What’s the Difference?

Which dental issues are handled by oral surgeons, and which are typically treated by orthodontists?

If you’re not sure, you’re not alone. Dental specialties can be confusing, and many patients don’t know which type of professional they should see for different dental problems.

oral surgeon

Oral surgeons and orthodontists each specialize in specific aspects of dental care and treatment, and each plays a different role in maintaining oral health.

What Do Oral Surgeons Do?

Both dental specialties require four years of regular dental school, studying anesthesia administration, dental anatomy, radiology, diseases and dental health. After that, oral surgeons and orthodontists receive additional training in their area of specialty.

Typically, training for oral surgeons focuses on the bones, tissues and connective structures of the face, mouth and jaw. Along with surgery procedures and techniques, they study plastic surgery and emergency medicine.

As you might expect, these professionals often perform dental or maxillofacial surgery. Facial and jaw structures damaged due to trauma, disease and congenital defects are commonly corrected with surgical procedures.

However, that’s not all these dental specialists do. They have the qualifications and experience to extract teeth, place dental implants and treat a variety of chronic conditions, including head and neck cancer, obstructive sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

What Do Orthodontists Do?

After dental school, orthodontists complete training in methods and techniques to properly align the teeth. Orthodontists study the construction and placement of braces as well as other orthodontic equipment, like headgear and retainers.

Crooked or crowded teeth aren’t just a cosmetic issue. Improper tooth alignment can cause uneven tooth wear, difficulties with hygiene and jaw pain, all of which can affect the ability to bite, chew and speak.

Orthodontists use a variety of tools and procedures to move the teeth into the proper position and make eating and talking more comfortable for patients.

Oral Surgeons and Orthodontists Often Work Together

Some oral health problems require the expertise of both of these dental specialties. Often, patients who have jaw and facial deformities need both oral surgery and orthodontic treatment.

When corrective jaw surgery is necessary, oral surgeons work together with orthodontists to develop comprehensive treatment plans. Many patients require orthodontic treatment both before and after oral surgery.

Treating difficult dental issues that require orthodontic and surgical treatment can take several months or years to complete. Consequently, patients are best served by working with well-established professionals who can be trusted for long-term commitment to a treatment plan.

The professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah are fully trained and board certified in the practice of oral surgery and related treatment protocols. We have years of experience successfully serving patients in the greater Salt Lake City area. Contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our expert oral surgeons today.