Oral surgery, such as a dental implant procedure or the extraction of a tooth, is surgery performed in or around the mouth. But not everyone who performs oral surgery is an oral surgeon, and the difference between having oral surgery performed and seeing an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) is significant. While oral surgery is a category of procedures, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a person who is an expert in face, mouth and jaw surgery.
Differences Between General Practitioners and Specialists
Many patients are familiar with the medical distinction between a general practitioner (such as a family doctor) and a specialist. A similar distinction exists regarding dental health:
- A dentist is a general practitioner of dental health, diagnosing and treating dental diseases.
- An oral and maxillofacial surgeon specializes in oral surgery, placing dental implants, treating TMJ disorders, removing impacted wisdom teeth and much more.
Although both are oral healthcare providers, the OMS pursues extensive education beyond dental school. After earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), OMSs complete a minimum of four years of a hospital-based surgical residency program. After residency graduation, an OMS must obtain the appropriate state licensure and permits. Most OMSs earn board certification, other earn graduate degrees or complete fellowships.
Why Choose an OMS?
Although a medical doctor or dentist may be able to perform some oral surgeries, OMSs are the surgical specialist of the dental profession. The extensive training required to become an OMS differentiates them from other oral healthcare professionals. Patients may be familiar with their family dentist but when serious oral healthcare issues arise, it is important to visit a specialist. Upon completing their training, OMSs can diagnose and perform:
- Dental implant surgery
- Tooth extractions and other oral surgeries
- Wisdom tooth management
- Treatment of oral, head and neck cancers
- Treatment of facial injuries/trauma and reconstructive surgery
- Surgery to treat obstructive sleep apnea
- Corrective jaw surgery
- Treatment of TMJ disorders
- Cleft lip and palate surgery
- Facial cosmetic surgery
Each OMS trains alongside residents in general surgery, internal medicine and anesthesiology. They also spend time in other specialty areas, including emergency medicine, plastic surgery and otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat).
Find an OMS Near You
An OMS is not simply “a person who performs oral surgery.” With their significant education and training, OMSs are the surgical experts in their field. Find a nearby OMS for a consultation.