How To Tell If You Need an Oral Surgeon Or a Dentist

How To Tell If You Need an Oral Surgeon Or a Dentist

Practicing good oral hygiene and dental health is an important part of life. To aid in keeping your mouth, teeth and gums healthy, your dentist provides routine checkups and cleanings. However, for more serious dental and oral problems or issues that affect your jaw, your dentist will probably recommend that you see an oral surgeon. Cosmetic dental procedures also require the services of an oral surgeon. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between a dentist and an oral surgeon, and why an oral surgeon is better equipped to perform complex dental procedures.

The Difference Between an Oral Surgeon and a Dentist

You are probably already pretty familiar with what a dentist does. Besides routine checkups, dentists will also provide fillings for cavities, treat early stages of gum disease, fit dentures, perform root canals, and apply crowns and bridges.

An oral surgeon focuses more on areas of treatment that require surgery, such as removing wisdom teeth, inserting dental implants, and treating advanced gum disease.

And while there is some overlap between the two, there is a large difference in the amount of training and education an oral surgeon receives before getting a degree.

A dentist must complete four years of study at a dental school after first receiving their bachelor’s degree. During this time, aspiring dentists will also complete clinical practicum experiences. These experiences provide in-depth, hands-on training with the actual diagnosis and treatment of dental issues.

An oral surgeon will spend an additional four to eight years studying oral surgery. During this time, they will also gain hands-on experience performing a number of complex and difficult surgical procedures. After this intensive surgical residency, oral surgeons must pass a board certification examination and a licensing exam.

Which One Do You Choose?

So, when do you see a dentist, and when do you see an oral surgeon? The answer is relatively simple. For common treatments and procedures, you would go to your dentist. For treatments that the dentist won’t or can’t perform, you’ll need to visit an oral surgeon.

Many people choose to visit their dentist first for an assessment of any dental issues they may be experiencing. Then, the dentist may recommend that you visit an oral surgeon as a next step. But it is also okay to contact an oral surgeon first if you know for certain that your problem requires their expertise.

Reasons You Might Need to See an Oral Surgeon

There are a variety of reasons that you might require oral surgery. These include:

Tooth Extraction

One of the most common procedures performed by an oral surgeon is tooth extraction. Your regular dentist might be able to extract easy-to-pull teeth, but wisdom teeth, for example, typically require an oral surgeon because they are more difficult to remove. Other reasons for tooth extraction include a damaged or diseased tooth, an impacted tooth, an abscessed tooth, or a tooth injured from some form of trauma or accident.

Dental Implants

Dental implants also require oral surgery. Whether you are seeking dental implants to replace teeth that have been extracted or if you just want to improve your smile and feel more confident, an oral surgeon can perform this procedure.

Jaw Pain

Chronic jaw pain is hard to live with. Oral surgeons treat chronic jaw pain and related issues. For example, oral surgery might be necessary to repair a jaw that is misaligned.

Oral Cancer

If your dentist notices any areas of concern, he or she will refer you to an oral surgeon, who can remove tumors or provide treatment for oral cancer.

Dental Bone Grafts

Bone grafts to the jaw are often necessary if there has been bone deterioration and an individual’s dentures aren’t fitting properly anymore. This is a procedure requiring the expertise of an oral surgeon.

Is There Sedation Involved in Oral Surgery?

Understandably, the idea of oral surgery can cause stress and anxiety in many patients. Oral surgeons typically offer a variety of sedation options depending on the procedure that will take place and your level of comfort.

Is Oral Surgery Covered by Insurance?

Just like your regular trips to the dentist, dental insurance will cover some oral surgery procedures. What is covered and how much will depend on your dental plan and the oral surgeon you choose. It is recommended that you do some research into different oral surgery practices with these questions in mind before making your choice.

Final Thoughts

Most oral surgery procedures can be performed and completed within a few hours. There really is nothing to fear from oral surgery, and having a procedure done often results in an improvement in both your oral health and your confidence. If you are experiencing any pain or other dental issues in your mouth, visit your dentist or contact an oral surgeon as soon as possible for a consultation.

If you are experiencing a dental emergency or are seeking to have a procedure performed that requires the services of an oral surgeon, contact Oral Surgery DC today. We will be happy to answer any questions you have and alleviate your concerns.

A Patient’s Guide to Choosing an Oral Surgeon

A Patient’s Guide to Choosing an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

You may need to see an oral surgeon for a variety of issues so understanding how to work with one maybe helpful.  To this  end, it might be helpful to take a step back and look at how the dental profession is organized.   The American Dental Association (ADA) is the world’s oldest and largest national dental association.  Every dentist that practices within the United States must hold a valid dental license from the ADA.

Oral Surgery, or officially oral and maxillofacial surgery, is one of the nine recognized dental specialties.  Graduates of the program, known as oral surgeons, are specialized in the extraction of teeth using a surgical technique (as opposed to a simple extraction).  However, oral surgeons are trained in more than just extractions to include IV sedation, facial trauma surgery, corrective jaw surgery as well as bone grafting and dental implant techniques.


General Dentistry vs Oral Surgery 

A general dentist establishes the long-term relationship with the patient and is organized to regularly see the patient for six month checkups and cleanings. They are well positioned to spot changes to dental healthy early, thus providing  ample time for conservative approaches to fixing the issues and avoiding further complications..  However, sometimes the problem might be more complex or further developed that the general dentist may require more specialized expertise, if the issues involves surgery in or around the dental cavity, then an oral surgeon would be a good choice for referral.  

A general dentist establishes the patient’s dental home and for complex cases plays an important role in the coordination and sequencing of care.

There are many oral surgeons in the D.C. area. Before choosing one to perform your oral surgery, you should consider several factors. Doing so ensures you can make an informed decision in choosing an oral surgeon you are comfortable with. Consider the tips in this patient guide.

Oral Surgery – a recognized dental specialty

Oral Surgery, or rather officially Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, is one of the nine recognized specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. 

Oral surgeons, like general dentists, complete a four year postgraduate dental school course, however, the surgeons go on and complete an additional 4 years of training usually in a hospital-based residency program. During this residency, aspiring oral surgeons get hands-on experience treating patients and performing a number of complex oral surgery procedures. They are fully trained in oral pathology, anesthesia, oral surgery, and other areas related to the discipline. Officially, they are referred to as oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained to assist your general dentist resolve complex surgical issues of the oral cavity.  A general dentist establishes the long-term relationship with the patient, and sees the patient regularly for checkups and cleanings – in essence the dental home.  An oral surgeon compliments the general dentist by resolving a specific issue, and then refers the patient back to their dental home for maintenance and on-going care.  Oral Surgeons are normally not setup to optimize communicating with patients are keeping up with their cleanings.

A good dental home will serve as an early warning system – by identifying teeth that might be showing initial signs of problems that usually can be resolved fairly easily.  Waiting until the tooth needs to be extracted are beginning to show signs of en usually will that affect the oral cavity.  tMany of the procedures an oral surgeon is trained to do are beyond the scope of a dentist’s abilities. That is why you might be referred to an oral surgeon when you visit your dentist for a particular issue.

What Does an Oral Surgeon Do?

Oral surgeons perform many different procedures and treatments, including:

  • Tooth extractions — Your dentist can sometimes remove teeth when needed, but more complex extractions, such as wisdom teeth, must be performed by an oral surgeon. A surgeon may also remove teeth that have been severely damaged or infected and can’t be treated.
  • Dental implants — Another common procedure performed by oral surgeons, dental implants can be used to replace missing or damaged teeth.
  • Treatment for facial and jaw injuries resulting from accidents.
  • Diagnosis of oral cancer and the removal of tumors.   
  • Soft tissue, tongue, lip, and tooth surgeries.
  • Corrective orthognathic (jaw) surgery.
  • Soft and hard tissue grafting.
  • Jaw alignment surgeries.

Choosing an Oral Surgeon

The following information will serve as a great patient guide to help you choose a professional and reputable oral surgeon.

1. Education

Oral surgeons need to have completed a residency, but you’ll also want to make sure that they went to an accredited dental school. It’s also recommended that you choose an oral surgeon who has training and experience with anesthesia as well as oral surgery. Oral surgeons who attend continuing education are also a wise choice, as they will be aware of the latest techniques and methods.

This is especially important if you are having a complex procedure done where outdated methods and technology could be particularly problematic.

2. Experience

While education is certainly important, so is experience. How long has the individual been practicing as an oral surgeon? Do they have a wealth of experience performing the oral surgery you require? Oral surgeons with a lot of experience will typically belong to one or more industry organizations, such as the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

3. What Services Do They Offer?

Not every oral surgeon will perform all types of oral surgeries. While almost all of them will perform tooth extractions, not all will handle corrective jaw surgery. Make sure the oral surgeon you are thinking about choosing offers the services you are looking to have done. You might also think about asking for testimonials or before and after pictures as further proof of their experience with a particular type of oral surgery.

4. Payment Methods

Oral surgery typically isn’t cheap. And you definitely don’t want to choose an oral surgeon simply based on the cost. But you do need to consider payment methods as a factor. Does the oral surgeon take insurance? Are they in-network with your dental or medical plan? Do they offer financing options for payment?

5. Reviews

You can find a wealth of information about a dental practice simply by reading patient reviews on various internet sites. Your dentist may have someone that they recommend, but you should take the time to do your own due diligence as well. It’s important to remember that one or two bad reviews are normal, and you shouldn’t be swayed by such when the majority of reviews are positive. Examine the practice’s ratings as a whole, not just on one or two reviews.

6. Do You Feel Comfortable?

Aside from all of the above, one of the most important factors in choosing an oral surgeon is how comfortable you feel with a particular surgeon. You can speak with a few over the phone or visit the practice in person for a consultation to get a better feel for the surgeon’s demeanor. Communication is important — the surgeon should take the time to answer any questions you have and do their best to make you feel at ease.

For professional care and an oral surgeon who takes the time to ensure that you feel comfortable throughout every step of any procedure, contact Oral Surgery DC today.

wisdom tooth

The Why’s and How’s of Adult Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Wisdom teeth are the final teeth to come in. For most people, they don’t make an appearance until the late teenage years or even into your 20’s. If everything goes correctly, erupted wisdom can last a lifetime with proper care. However, it is not usuals for many people to experience problems with the wisdom teeth many years after they erupt. Research shows that 90% of people suffer from at least one impacted wisdom tooth and 12% of wisdom teeth will eventually cause infection in the gums if they’re not removed.


Do You Need to Remove Your Wisdom Teeth?

If wisdom teeth are not bothering you, and your general dentist can not find any evidence of wisdom teeth contributing towards disease in the mouth, then there is usually no need to consider removal of your wisdom teeth. However, it is possible for wisdom teeth to develop issues years after they erupt.

Wisdom teeth that have fully erupted and can be reached for proper cleaning may not require removal. As long as they are correctly positioned, these teeth can be used for chewing and biting at the back of your mouth. Eventually, though, most people will need wisdom tooth extraction in addition to regular dental care.


Partially Erupted Wisdom Teeth

Since there is limited space in the mouth for your teeth, wisdom teeth may not have enough space to come in properly. This may result in the teeth coming in on an angle.

Decay is common in wisdom teeth, as they are so far back in the mouth that it is challenging to clean them properly. It’s also quite difficult to remove the food particles or plaque that can collect in pockets formed by partially erupted teeth. The result may be an infection that can destroy both teeth and gum tissue. Pericoronitis, an inflammatory gum disease, is also a risk in these circumstances.


Impacted Wisdom Teeth

An impacted wisdom tooth is a more complicated situation than a completely erupted wisdom tooth. Impaction simply means the tooth has grown at an angle that makes it impossible to fully break through the gums. An impacted wisdom tooth can stay symptom-free and remain under the surface of the gums for some time, but if the tooth becomes infected or begins to put pressure on nerves or other teeth, you may notice:

  • Bleeding or sensitive gums in the area of the tooth
  • Pain and swelling in the jaw
  • Swollen or reddened gums
  • A bitter or rotten taste
  • Pain when opening your mouth
  • Bad breath

The pressure from the wisdom tooth is not only painful but can shift your other teeth. This may undo years of orthodontic treatments, or it can push otherwise perfect teeth into odd positions. When teeth are pressed too closely together, it’s difficult to clean properly between the teeth, which may result in more cavities forming.

Finally, it’s possible for cysts to develop due to the sac where wisdom teeth form. This sac normally ruptures as the tooth erupts through the gums, but it may fill with fluid in some cases. This isn’t usually dangerous in itself, but it can cause damage to the surrounding nerves and jawbone. It may even end up creating a non-cancerous tumor that requires removal. This sort of cyst or tumor can damage surrounding tissue and bone, which is a very good reason to talk to an oral surgeon for any type of complex wisdom tooth removal.


When to See an Oral Surgeon

You should have regular checkups with a general dentist to ensure any problems are caught early. If you are between visits and notice any of the above symptoms or pain at the very back of your mouth where the wisdom tooth is erupting, talk to your dentist to get a referral to an oral surgeon.

Adult wisdom tooth extraction requires specialty dental care. An oral surgeon is necessary to ensure the problematic tooth is removed safely and without further impact to the other teeth. As you’ve seen previously in this article, some serious complications may occur and oral surgeons are trained to treat such issues.

An oral surgeon will let you know if your wisdom teeth need to be removed, and if they do recommend. It is usually a good idea to start with an initial consult appointment with your oral surgeon. At this time, the surgeon will review your x-ray and medical history to determine if the procedure should be done while sedated. This treatment plan will detail all the dental codes recommended for the procedure. This allows our insurance team to check with your insurance provider for coverage and determine if there is a co-pay. Many insurance plans offer pre-authorization and our office is more than happy to submit on behalf of the patient. For patients with dental anxiety it is also possible to provide pre-medication to start taking the night before.

Oral Surgery offices perform many extraction procedures everyday so with proper planning, your extraction appointment should be rather route, allowing you to get back home and start the healing process.


What to Expect From Adult Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Many people have their wisdom teeth extracted when they first erupt, usually at the end of the teenage years because the tooth may have erupted, but the tooth roots have yet to fully develop into the jawbone, a process that can take several years. Thus, it is easier to extract under-develped tooth roots with minimal damage to surrounding tissue, though this procedure still needs to be done by an oral surgeon. If you aren’t having any issues you can wait to have the teeth extracted, though your oral surgeon may suggest removal before problems occur to prevent any pain and irritation you may face later on.

As mentioned, a patient’s medical background determines the type of anesthesia to use during the extraction. IV General Sedation is sometimes recommended for complex cases or where the patient might not be able to keep still. Numbing medication is applied to the site, and the actual extraction takes place.

You will likely have sutures in the area where the tooth was removed. Typical healing period for wisdom teeth extraction is 3-5 days. If needed, we are more than happy to provide a school or work note for days missed.

No one wants to deal with the excruciating pain that comes with a toothache. If your wisdom teeth are causing you any pain or discomfort, make sure to contact Oral Surgery DC and schedule an appointment immediately.