The main differences between a dentist and an oral surgeon are in their levels of education, training, and expertise, and the types of procedures they typically perform.
- Dentists offer primary and preventative care for your teeth.
- They perform routine oral health care procedures that are both restorative and preventive.
- Dentists complete four years of undergraduate school before taking the Dental Admissions Test, or DAT. After that, they attend between three to four years of dental school, where they learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, and oral health.
- Once a dentist has completed his or her training, they receive a degree listing them as either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS).
- Oral surgeons, also known as Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, have extensive medical, dental and surgical specialized training on how to recognize and treat issues related to the face, oral cavity, jaw, and teeth.
- Oral surgeons are THE experts in the dental field in Extractions and Dental Implant placements to name a few.
- Patients visit oral surgeons for more specialized care and complex problems with the teeth, oral cavity, jaw, and face.
- Both dentists and oral surgeons attend dental school and receive the same general training. However, oral surgeons receive additional surgical training (4-6 more years) after dental school, and they must be within the top 1-3% of their dental class to be accepted into a training program.
- General Dentists performing Oral & Maxillofacial Surgical procedures without completing a 4-6 year residency BEYOND dental school would be similar to a dermatologist doing heart transplants. A dermatologist has an MD and his / her license would allow him to do a heart transplant, but his / her training would not be adequate and the result would not be ideal. Yes a general dentist has a DDS degree – a license that says he / she can do implants, but without the proper training to do so.
- Imagine never going to dental school but taking a few weekend classes and watching YouTube videos then trying to do dentistry. That’s essentially what general dentists who place implants are doing. They are taking huge shortcuts which can have very undesirable outcomes. Once a bad outcome occurs, the patient has already spent thousands of dollars. That patient typically must then be sent to a board certified Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon to correct the problem, spending more money and undergoing more surgeries… The entire problem could have been avoided had the patient instead been treated by The Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon to begin with.
Dentists can diagnose and treat oral issues such as cavities, gum disease, crowns, fillings, cosmetic tooth procedures, whitening, etc., but only oral surgeons have the proper training to perform oral surgeries. Dentists are best for preventative care, and it’s often better to see an oral surgeon for complex or invasive procedures.
Becoming an oral surgeon requires extensive education and training. Oral surgeons are healthcare professionals trained in both the dental and medical fields. They perform complex surgeries and treat a variety of medical conditions related to the mouth, head, and neck. Here are the steps to become an oral surgeon:
- Undergraduate Education: The first step in becoming an oral surgeon is earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Most dental schools require a certain number of science classes, so consider taking science courses. Possible majors can include: Pre-dentistry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry, and Mathematics.
- Dental Admission Test (DAT): Before entering a dental school program, professionals must take the dental admission test and earn a passing score. This is a computer-based test that evaluates a student’s basic understanding of science, reading comprehension, and critical thinking.
- Dental School: After passing the DAT, students can apply for a four-year dental program. Each school’s admission requirements can vary, but they typically include: Completing a certain number of undergraduate science courses, earning a passing DAT score, answering questions during a personal interview, and completing an application questionnaire.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency: Oral surgeons need to have a four-year dental degree from an accredited dental school. During dental school, students study medical theories and practice clinical treatments. The first two years focus on general science, anatomy, and dentistry. The last two years include more clinical experience and specialized electives. After graduating from dental school, oral surgeons need four to six more years of medical study. They can apply for a residency program where they study and practice surgery for at least four years. Alternatively, they can join a training program where they earn a medical degree and complete their oral surgery residency at the same time.
- Licensing and Board Certification: After completing the residency program, oral surgeons must obtain appropriate state licensure and permits. Majority of OMSs pursue board certification. Some OMSs have additional graduate degrees, such as an MD, PhD, or MBA. Some OMSs complete 1- to 2-year fellowships for advanced training such as facial cosmetic surgery.
Many think of an oral surgeon as as and all-in-one dentist, medical doctor and surgeon.
What Is an OMS?
An Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMS) is a dental specialist who has completed at least four years of a hospital-based residency after dental school. During this time, an OMS resident gains vast experience treating patients with problems involving the teeth, jaws, oral cavity and associated facial structures 1. OMSs are surgical specialists of the dental profession, undergoing extensive training that begins with dental school and continues with at least four years of hospital-based surgical residency. They are truly experts in face, mouth and jaw surgery. Procedures performed by OMSs include dental implants, wisdom teeth management and extraction, tooth extractions, TMJ and facial pain, facial cosmetic surgery, corrective jaw surgery, facial injury and trauma surgery, oral, head and neck pathology, cleft lip/palate and craniofacial surgery, obstructive sleep apnea, extractions and dentoalveolar surgery, and surgery to assist orthodontics 12.
The cost of becoming an oral surgeon can vary depending on the school and location. According to the American Dental Association, the average cost of dental school for residents is $251,2331. Additional studies to be able to do the surgeries are included in the residency program.
To become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMS), one must complete at least four years of a hospital-based residency after dental school. This is in addition to the four years of dental school required to become a dentist 1.
In total, it takes around 12 to 14 years of schooling to become an oral surgeon. This includes:
- Four years to complete an undergraduate degree
- Four years to complete dental school
- Four to six years to complete an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency 123.
Becoming an oral surgeon requires time, determination, and patience. However, it is a rewarding career that allows you to help patients with complex oral health issues and perform reconstructive surgery for the face and jaw 1.