Oral Surgeons and dentists, what's the difference?
September 10, 2008 8:26 AM   Subscribe

What are the differences between an oral surgeon and a dentist? Can either one tend to both jaw pains and general dentistry?

Late last week I saw a doctor for what seemed like ear pain after using earplugs in a factory. As it turns out that it was inflammation of the jaws that was causing this. The doctor recommended I go see a dentist, but here's where I got confused.

It's my own fault for neglecting it so long, but I havent been to a dentist in over a year. The last one I went to left a lot to be desired, so I'm looking through lists for another one to go to (in Memphis, not that location really matters). Is there a difference in service that 'oral surgeons' and 'general dentists' can offer? Would I need to go see two different doctors, one for the jaws and one for general teeth checkups, or can one take care of both?
posted by Muu to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
Oral surgeon works more with the gum, jaw and mouth as a whole - dentist - teeth.
posted by watercarrier at 8:32 AM on September 10, 2008

Generally how it works is that your dentist looks at your tooth situation and refers you to an oral surgeon. I've yet to come across an oral surgeon who bothers doing straight-up dentistry. You'll probably need to go see both.
posted by phunniemee at 8:44 AM on September 10, 2008

Oral Surgery is the holy grail of dentistry. After 4 years of dental school, they have to go back and get another 5-6 years of education which includes the education of medical school. Oral Surgeons are the ones who reconstruct someone's jaw after a bad accident-- basically, they are the bridge between serious matters in dentistry and serious medical (including trauma) issues.

For your situation, I'd recommend going to traditional route of taking a medical issue from general to specific as in seeing the general dentist first and then seeing where she refers you. If the referral is to someone they know and trust your case can be discussed between the two and ensure you the best continuity of care. Good luck!
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 9:34 AM on September 10, 2008

My answer in MeFi mail.
posted by charlesv at 11:35 AM on September 10, 2008

Oral surgery is a specialty, and very often (but not exclusively) in separate practices. That said, you may find a practice that offers both, or separately in the same offices. You will want a general dentist regardless of whether you actually need oral surgery, so start there.

And "over a year" barely counts in the annals of neglecting dentistry. Trust me. :(
posted by dhartung at 11:39 AM on September 10, 2008

A dentist is more for teeth cleaning and root canals/cavities. An oral surgeon is for fixing a broken jaw or other corrective surgery.
posted by sharkhunt at 2:03 PM on September 10, 2008

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