Oral Surgeon vs. Doctor of Dental Surgery — What’s the Difference?

Should you see an oral surgeon, or do you need to see a doctor of dental surgery (DDS)? Many patients aren’t aware of the differences between these designations.

oral surgeon

The answer depends on your oral health care needs. Understanding the capabilities of these two types of dental professionals will help you make an informed choice for your family’s needs.

What Is a Doctor of Dental Surgery?

A doctor of dental surgery is the degree awarded upon graduation from dental school. In other words, a DDS is a general dentist.

To further confuse matters, you may have noticed that some general dentists have the letters DMD, rather than DDS, after their names. DMD stands for doctor of medicine in dentistry or doctor of dental medicine, depending upon the university proffering the degree.

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. During their studies, dentists also get hands-on training in diagnosing and treating dental problems through practical clinical experience.

How Does an Oral Surgeon Differ from a Dentist?

An oral surgeon, also referred to as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, is essentially a dentist who has extensive specialized training in complex dental issues.

Earning a degree in oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS) requires completion of a four-to-six-year, hospital-based surgical residency program. Studies are focused on procedures and techniques involving irregularities in the facial and jaw structures.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons also undergo training in the administration of anesthesia, including intravenous (IV) sedation, nitrous oxide and general anesthesia.

Should You See a Dentist or Oral Surgeon?

Like a family doctor who can handle a variety of health care issues, a general dentist can diagnose and treat most basic dental problems.

In fact, many patients see a dentist as a first point of contact for dental health care issues. And for routine exams and cleanings or simple procedures, such as a filling or crown, a general dentist may meet your needs.

However, serious dental issues may exceed the scope of a dentist’s expertise. For specialized care, look to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

An oral surgeon is qualified to treat a range of problems, including wisdom tooth complications, impacted teeth, facial injuries, congenital defects, jaw misalignment and bone loss in the jaw. These dental professionals also treat a variety of chronic diseases and conditions, including head and neck cancer, sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

Patients who need tooth extractions or dental implants also need the care and attention of an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Determining which dental professional you should visit isn’t always easy. The professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah can help. Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today to find out if an oral surgeon best meets your needs.