What does it mean when your dentist refers you to an oral surgeon? Skip to main content

What does it mean when your dentist refers you to an oral surgeon?

Until you’ve been referred to one, you might not fully understand how a dentist differs from an oral surgeon.

From training and experience to equipment and breadth of surgical treatments, the distinction between a dentist and an oral surgeon is quite large.

By the time you finish reading this post, the difference should be clear. And it’s important to note: When it comes to dentist vs. oral surgeon it isn’t “one or the other.” The two professionals work together in a symbiotic relationship, partnering in the shared goal of promoting strong oral health for you and your family.

Always a dentist

Oral surgeons train first to be a dentist. This is part of the reason why patients find themselves confused. The two professions are not built along separate roads but the same path with one extending further than the other.

Think of a long-haul driver. They first must learn to drive a car before they can up their skills and be qualified to drive a large truck.

It’s the same with an oral surgeon. Every oral surgeon starts out as a dentist and will always be one. It’s just that additional training and education prepares them for complex surgical operations on the face, jaw, head, neck and mouth.

Understanding the primary duties of the dentist

You might think that a dentist’s number one priority is fixing your teeth but really their primary role is preventative care.

Dentists monitor your oral health to stop cavities and other oral health concerns before they present an issue. Their focus is on procedures such as cleanings, diagnostic x-rays and checking for infections of the gums and mouth.

And sure, a dentist also focuses on restorative and cosmetic care like fillings, crowns and bridges, veneers or whitening – but avoiding these treatments in the first place is a key part of a dentist’s job.

And what about an oral surgeon?

An oral surgeon offers a number of procedures that are beyond the scope of the general dentist’s training, such as:

  • Extraction of impacted teeth
  • Installation of dental implants. The implant is the titanium post on which your dentist will install your prosthetic porcelain tooth.
  • Bone grafts. Encouraging bone growth to thicken and strengthen the jawbone in preparation for dental implants.
  • Repair of jaw disorders
  • Replacement of lost teeth, including full-arch prosthesis
  • Repair of facial damage following an accident or facial trauma

The relationship between your dentist and oral surgeon

A strong alliance between dentists and oral surgeons is key to upholding a high level of care for patients.

Dentists recommend oral surgeons their patients can trust and in turn, the oral surgeon maintains an open line of communication with your dentist. In this way, you receive the highest quality of care possible.

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