Dentist's Chair

Do You Need An Oral Surgeon Or A Dentist?

Most people have a good idea of what a dentist does. But not everybody has a good understanding of the procedures performed by an oral surgeon. If you are in need of serious dental work, your dentist may have referred you to an oral surgeon. You might be wondering what the difference is between an oral surgeon and a dentist. In this blog post, we’ll cover some of the similarities and differences between these two professions.

What Do Dentists Do? 

A dentist is the primary care provider of your dental health. They provide your regular checkups and cleanings, and monitor your dental health to address any issues that come up. Beyond routine checkups, a dentist might perform the following procedures:

Regular appointments and communication with your dentist is key. When your dentist is familiar with you and your dental health, they can create a treatment plan to keep your mouth healthy, and be aware whenever an issue seems out of the ordinary. You should see your dentist regularly – about once every six months. 

What Do Oral Surgeons Do? 

Occasionally, your regular dentist may discover an issue that requires a more elaborate procedure to fix. In this case, you might be referred to an oral surgeon. An oral surgeon is similar to a dentist, but they have more specialized training. Oral surgeons go to dental school, just like regular dentists. But unlike dentists, they often stay in school for another 4-8 years of medical training.

Oral surgeons specialize in complex dental procedures that require surgery and/or general anesthesia. Here are some procedures that you might need to see an oral surgeon for:

  • Impacted tooth removal
  • Jaw realignment and repair
  • Removal of tumors and cysts in the jaw
  • Wisdom teeth removal

If your dental procedure requires complex incisions to your jaw or if you need to be put under general anesthesia for the procedure, you’ll probably need to see an oral surgeon. 

Why You Might Need An Oral Surgeon Instead Of A Dentist

A dentist is perfectly capable of performing minor oral surgery. Either a dentist or an oral surgeon, depending on the level of complexity of the problem, can perform procedures like dental implants or root canals. Complex procedures benefit from the expertise of an oral surgeon, though. Your regular dentist can assess your issue and will refer you to an oral surgeon if they think you could benefit from specialized expertise. You should not seek out an oral surgeon on your own. Always consult your regular dentist first. They will have a list of trusted oral surgeons, and your dentist can make a recommendation based on your unique situation.


There are two main differences between oral surgeons and dentists. First, a dentist sees you on a regular basis, while an oral surgeon only treats you for specific procedures. Second, a dentist has a more general skillset, while oral surgeons specialize in complex procedures. Remember, always consult your dentist before seeing an oral surgeon! A dentist should be able to handle almost every oral health procedure you need, but they’ll be sure to refer you to an oral surgeon should the need arise.