Many of the procedures performed by an oral surgeon are also offered at a local general dentist’s office. This leaves many patients to wonder which type of provider they should choose for their oral health treatment needs. It is important to recognize, however, that while both providers may be ‘qualified’ to treat a problem, oral surgeons have far more expertise and training in complex treatment protocols than dentists do.
Did you know that there are far fewer oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the U.S. than general dentists? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 146,000 dentists practicing in 2012. Comparatively, there were only 5,120 oral and maxillofacial surgeons as of May 2014.
Both oral surgeons and dentists attend the same four years of dental school, achieving either a Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry. However, oral and maxillofacial surgeons go through specialty training in an addition four-year surgical hospital residency program alongside medical professionals. They learn to diagnose, treat and manage dental and health issues pertaining to the mouth, face, jaws, and surrounding soft tissues.
While dentists can remove wisdom teeth, most of these procedures are not simple extractions. In fact, the majority of patients have impacted wisdom teeth or other issues that make the procedure far more complex. Oral surgeons are trained specifically in the treatment of complicated extractions and remove thousands of wisdom teeth during their residencies and every year thereafter.
Oral surgeons are thoroughly trained in both IV sedation and general anesthesia. It is a primary component of their surgical training and allows greater pain management options for complex procedures in their practice. Most general dentists, on the other hand, use only local anesthesia to perform extractions and do not provide IV sedation. Of the few who do offer IV sedation, most have only completed a brief weekend course to learn how to do so.