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 an oral surgeon differs from your dentist. 

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 cooperative relationship, partnering in the shared goal of promoting strong oral health for you and your family.

Always a dentist

Every oral surgeon trains first as a dentist, and will always be one. But additional training and education prepares them for complex surgical procedures 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.

Sure, a dentist also focuses on restorative and cosmetic care like fillings, crowns and bridges, veneers and whitening, but avoiding the need for these treatments 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
  • Placement 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 such as cysts or tumors
  • 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.