Many dental patients are unaware of the different types of specialties that exist within the field. They may assume that a family dentist performs oral surgery or that an endodontist manages routine cleanings. When you need more complex dental work, it’s important to understand the distinction between different specialty areas. This is particularly true when it comes to understanding the differences between general dentistry and oral surgery.
General dentists perform such duties as routine cleanings, diagnosis of cavities, and the filling of cavities. Endodontists work with people who require a procedure that involves the pulp and root of the teeth. A root canal is a prime example. Oral surgeons perform surgical procedures involving the mouth, teeth, and jaw. Below are descriptions of some of the most common types of oral surgery.
Dental implants replace the root of the missing tooth as well as provide you with an artificial tooth that attaches to it. The replacement root eventually fuses to your remaining jaw bone and remains in your mouth permanently. Patients receiving dental implants typically fall into one of three different categories.
Some have worn removable dentures for many years and want to make the switch to permanent dental implants for a variety of reasons. Comfort, convenience, facial sagging, and damage to oral health from long-term use of dentures are the most common.
A second category of patients who seek dental implants are those who already have missing teeth and choose this option for restoration. The third category of patients includes those who need teeth extracted due to decay, disease, or trauma before they can receive dental implants. Tooth extraction is another service under the umbrella of oral surgery.
Most adults have at least one tooth extracted by the time they reach middle age, and many people need to have their wisdom teeth removed in their late teens or early 20s. The most common causes of tooth extraction include:
Failed root canal
Primary teeth that never fell out
As part of an orthodontic treatment plan
Trauma such as a car accident
Severe tooth decay
Patients receive a local anesthetic when undergoing tooth extraction. In some cases, a stronger anesthetic may be more appropriate.
Surgery of the jaw is always a last resort after more conservative treatment methods have failed to bring relief of the condition. Your dentist may recommend jaw surgery for the following conditions:
Trauma to the mouth
Severe temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
Incorrect bite or malocclusion
Grinding or clenching of the teeth
Difficulty speaking, eating, or chewing
Improper position of the jaw
General dentists typically refer patients to an oral surgeon for consultation about dental implants, tooth extraction, jaw surgery, and any other dental concern with surgery as the most likely form of treatment. Depending on the guidelines of their dental insurance, patients may also have the option to self-refer. Any patient who faces oral surgery should be certain that he or she understands the upcoming procedure, including what to expect for healing time afterward.