What Is An Oral Surgeon and Why Can’t I Just See My Dentist?

Distinction between Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon

The distinction between Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon lie in the anatomy of the words themselves. Oral refers to the mouth, and Maxillofacial refers to the jaw and face.


Both oral and maxillofacial surgeons are responsible for diagnosing, treating, and performing surgery to treat injuries and issues in the head, neck, face, jaws and hard and soft oral tissues. Both these professions are internationally recognized as a surgical specialty.

Educational Requirements

To qualify for the position of oral and maxillofacial surgeon, you must earn a four-year college degree in dentistry and successfully pass a hospital oral and maxillofacial surgery residential program for a required minimum of 4 years, which usually involves training in anesthesia and pain control.

Distinction between Dentist and Oral Surgeon

A dentist refers a patient to an oral surgeon when the task of performing more specialized procedures that require more specialized training, the use of anesthetics, and the proper resources that a dentist might not possess.

Procedures performed by oral surgeons

Common procedures by oral surgeons are performed to address

  • Facial Pain or TMJ/TMD

  • Wisdom teeth issues and removal

  • Misaligned jaw

  • Reconstructive surgery as a result from an injury

  • Cleft lip and Palate surgery

  • Cancer in the face, jaw or neck area

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

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Understanding the Different Types of Oral Surgery

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 c