The Differences Between a Dentist and an Oral Surgeon

The Differences Between a Dentist and an Oral Surgeon

With today’s advancements in the field of dental care, patients have a wide range of specialized providers available. However, it can be tricky to know which type of dental professional is best suited to address your needs. Understanding the differences between a general dentist and an oral surgeon can help you make an informed decision for seeking dental care.


Both general dentists and oral surgeons must complete dental school after receiving their bachelor’s degree. Typically taking four years to complete, dental students must take courses in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, and oral surgery. Dental students must also complete clinical experiences, gaining hands-on training in how to diagnose and treat dental problems.

After completing dental school and earning the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree, a general dentist must complete a licensure exam to practice.

An oral surgeon, or oral and maxillofacial surgeon, needs to complete a four to six-year surgical residency. This program must be accepted by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, ensuring that each resident has received their training in oral pathology, anesthesia, and oral surgery. Following the surgical residency, the student must complete a board certification exam.

What is A General Dentist?

A general dentist is typically viewed as an oral health primary care provider. Much like a family doctor who can diagnose and treat many health issues, a general dentist can do the same with a variety of dental problems. General dentists help patients maintain healthy smiles, provide checkups, and offer an array of services including:

  • Dental Examinations & Cleanings
  • Diagnostic Exams
  • Preventive Maintenance

What is An Oral Surgeon?

An oral surgeon is a dental specialist who has completed further advanced training in order to learn how to treat complex dental issues as well as diseases, injuries, and defects of the head, neck, face, jaws, and the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. An oral surgeon is skilled in a variety of complex services such as:

  • Removing Diseased or Impacted Teeth
  • Placing Dental Implants
  • Treating Facial Trauma
  • Evaluating Pathologic Conditions

When determining which dental care provider is best for you, it is best to consult your trusted dental professional. From there, they can come up with a personalized treatment plan to assess your needs, or refer you to a specialist to ensure you are receiving the best care possible.

At Lorton Springfield Dental Implants & Oral Surgery, oral surgeon, Dr. Snehal Patel, and his dedicated team strive to treat and address the needs of patients no matter the complexity. Contact us for more information today!