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Oral Surgeon or Dentist

Oral Surgeon or Dentist

What’s the difference?

Most patients are not aware of the difference between a general dentist and an oral surgeon.

An Oral Surgeon, more accurately referred to as an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMS), has completed the basic four-year dental education as a general dentist.  An OMS however, then completes anywhere from four to six more years of additional training necessary to learn proper surgical technique, effective pre and post-operative preparation and care, and management of medical and surgical complications.

OMSs are the only dental specialists who are trained in all aspects of anesthesia. OMS residents are trained by medical anesthesiologist and serve on the medical anesthesiology service, where they learn to evaluate patients for anesthesia, deliver the anesthetic, and monitor the recovery of post-anesthetic patients. After completing their anesthesia training, OMS residents continue to administer anesthesia to patients for the remainder of their 4 to 6-year residency, while under the mentorship of attending Oral surgeons.

This extended hands on, hospital-based residency training, is not a certificate-based training that most general dentists have.

Only an oral surgeon can be a member of The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) or Board Certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. see AAOMS.org.

A DDS degree does not make a dentist an oral surgeon. The DDS degree (doctor of dental surgery) is the basic degree awarded upon graduation from dental school.  In other words, a DDS is a general dentist.

The DDS degree is the same education as DMD (doctor of dental medicine).  Different universities name the same degree differently.

That’s commendable … what kind of residency?

There are nine types of dental specialist residencies and two types of general dentistry residencies.

Number of Years of Residency

Both General Practice Residency (GPR) and Advanced Education General Dentistry (AEGD) are typically one-year residencies that allow recently graduated dentists to further hone his or her skills in the traditionally defined disciplines of general dentistry, before entering private practice.

These programs are an excellent stepping stone to private practice dentistry but neither of these programs are equivalent to the focused residencies required of dental specialist.

It is not however, uncommon for dental specialists to complete a one year GPR or AEGD before they can be accepted to a specialty training program.

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

Many patients have a good relationship with their family dentists and trust them as a first point of contact for dental health care issues.

Most general dentists’ practice with a team approach and have formed relationships with a variety dental specialist to assure their patients receive the advantages of the expertise these specialists have gained in their years of additional study.

Besides getting a more focused expertise, your general dentist understands the specialist’s care is often more cost effective for you; by avoiding misdiagnosis, unnecessary X-rays, unnecessary procedures, and complications. Treatment times are also shorter.

Historically nine dental specialties have been recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) and Royal College of Dentists of Canada (RCDC). In turn, accredited residencies and board certification examinations have been developed for each of these special areas, to verify graduate dentists are trained to perform to a recognized standard.

Because of changes in technology, economic stressors, and the growth of the internet and aggressive marketing techniques, in October of 2016, a new resolution passed by the ADA House of Delegates permits dentists to announce as specialists, even if they are not trained in one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the Association.

Before the amendment, Section 5.H of the Code specified that there were only nine dental specialties recognized by the ADA that could announce their specialties and completion of an accredited residency was mandatory.

Residencies are now, no longer necessary to advertise as a dental specialist and claiming such “specialization” has no prerequisites.

“It’s a fairly significant change,” said Dr. Michael Halasz, Ohio-based general practitioner and chair of the Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs. “The bottom line is that it keeps dentists in line with the Code of Ethics.”

  1. Dental public health – study of dental epidemiology and social health policies.
  2. Endodontics – root canal therapy and study of diseases of the dental pulp.
  3. Oral and Maxillofacial pathology – diagnosis, and treatment of oral -facial diseases.
  4. Oral and Maxillofacial radiology – radiologic interpretation of oral and maxillofacial diseases.
  5. Oral and Maxillofacial surgery – experts in face, mouth, and jaw surgery.
  6. Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics – align teeth and modification of dental-facial growth.
  7. Periodontics – treatment of diseases of the periodontium (non-surgical and surgical).  They can also perform gum surgery and gum grafts as well as place dental implants.
  8. Pediatric dentistry – Dentistry limited to child patients
  9. Prosthodontics – Advanced training in restoring dental occlusion including dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants. Some prosthodontists further their training in “oral and maxillofacial prosthodontics”, which is the discipline concerned with the replacement of missing facial structures, such as ears, eyes, noses, etc.
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