If you’re in need of care for your bite, jaw, wisdom teeth, or crowded teeth, you may be unsure about which dental professional you should visit—an orthodontist or an oral surgeon. This overview will clear common confusion regarding these two dental professions.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes several dental specialties. A few of the more well-known oral healthcare providers are:
- General dentists,
- Oral Surgeons.
Aside from attending dental school and holding memberships in dental organizations, oral surgeons and orthodontists have different roles. How do oral surgeons and orthodontists differ? In a nutshell, an orthodontist specializes in straightening teeth, while an oral surgeon is the surgical specialist of the dental profession.
Continue reading to learn more about the differences between these two professions.
What Does Their Education Look Like?
Both oral surgeons and orthodontists are required to complete a bachelor’s degree and four years of dental school. Afterward, they complete a residency in their specialties.
An oral surgeon’s four-year residency focuses on an in-depth study of the anatomy of the skin, bones, and muscles of the face, mouth, and jaws.
During this program, the residents learn plastic surgery, emergency medicine, and ears, nose, and throat medicine (collectively called otolaryngology). This four-year residency is specifically chosen and accredited by the American Dental Association.
Oral Surgeons are technically titled oral and maxillofacial surgeons. These doctors are specialists focusing on reconstructive surgery of the face, facial trauma surgery, the oral cavity, head and neck, mouth, jaws, and facial cosmetic surgery.
After completing dental school, an orthodontist’s residency focuses on properly aligning teeth. The aim goes beyond delivering beautiful smiles. Orthodontists help patients overcome problems with their speech, biting, and chewing.
Orthodontists focus on non-surgical treatments that realign a patient’s dental structures. We rely on orthodontic appliances such as braces and clear aligners to apply gradual force on patients’ teeth. This process ensures we will safely move your teeth and jaws until they reach the desired position.
The Conditions Treated
Oral surgeons and orthodontists treat a variety of dental issues, and they often work together to fix a common problem. For example, patients who have jaw or facial deformities or need corrective jaw surgery may require both specialists.
Both orthodontists and oral surgeons commonly refer patients to each other for specialized treatments.
Common Oral Surgical Issues Include:
- Impacted wisdom teeth,
- Tooth loss,
- TMJ disorder,
- Fractured jawbone,
- Broken facial bones,
- Cleft lip,
- Sleep apnea.
What the Best Orthodontist in Natomas, Sacramento Treats:
- Crowded teeth,
- Gapped teeth,
- Open bite,
- Impacted teeth.
Oral Surgeon Vs Orthodontist
Most of the time, patients with jaw and facial deformities will need both oral surgery and orthodontic treatment.
When corrective jaw surgery is necessary, oral surgeons work together with orthodontists to develop comprehensive treatment plans. It’s essential to keep in mind that every individual is different, and so are their treatment needs for the perfect smile.
So, always follow your orthodontist’s treatment recommendations if you want the best results.
What Is Orthognathic Surgery?
Orthognathic surgery is what some people know as corrective jaw surgery or simply jaw surgery. This procedure serves to correct jaw and lower face conditions related to structure, growth, and airway issues.
Some of those problems include sleep apnea, TMJ disorders, and malocclusion problems arising from skeletal disharmonies. Other patients may also require jaw surgery when they suffer from orthodontic bite problems that cannot be easily treated with braces.
If a patient has other facial imbalances, disharmonies, and asymmetries, they may also require orthognathic surgery. These corrections can help improve the patient’s facial aesthetics and self-esteem.
Will You Need Oral Surgery?
No matter what your dental problem is, often, the best place to start is with your orthodontist.
Oral surgery is invasive by nature. Orthodontists are more likely to offer conservative treatments to address common dental issues, meaning you will reap the same benefits without sowing as much of your time, money, and energy.
Your orthodontist will have your best interests in mind. They will refer you to an oral surgical specialist if oral surgery is necessary.
You may also want to ask your general dentist for advice on where to start. Your general dentist knows your oral health history, and they will understand your specific needs and goals.
If your teeth have been bothering you for some time now, make sure to get in touch with a general dentist first. You may want to visit someone like our friends from Maidu Dental before you commit to an interdisciplinary team and be subject to invasive surgery.
The journey toward oral surgery is not a fast one. The team will have to prepare and get additional information. We can’t get enough data just with a quick glance in your mouth. Be ready for some advanced imaging like x-rays. Let’s take a look at some scenarios that definitely require oral surgery.
Teeth that cannot fully erupt for several reasons and remain trapped under the gumline are a significant danger to any patient. The most common cause of impacted teeth is Wisdom Teeth. If there isn’t enough space for your third molars to erupt, they will stay under the gum line and create additional complications.
As your gums grow sorer and sorer, you might also develop some infections. These pockets of infected material affect your surrounding teeth, cause significant pain, and even help erode the bone tissue anchoring other dental pieces. These cysts can destroy your oral health.
To avoid this situation, or also as a way to correct it, you can trust a team of orthodontists and oral surgeons to remove your impacted teeth through oral surgery.
Another reason why you might require oral surgery is problems with your joints. The little joint that connects your lower and upper jaws can suffer from something we call Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD). People use those two acronyms interchangeably, but they’re not really the same.
The joint that connects your bones is the TMJ, whereas the disorder gets the name TMD.
As a community, dental health specialists have not determined what causes this problem. However, we have identified several risk factors, and we try to help all patients avoid them.
Treatments are usually limited to dealing with the most discomforting symptoms, but you might require oral surgery to correct your oral structures and alleviate the pain in extreme cases.
Patients who require dental implants for cosmetic or restorative dentistry will require help from a maxillofacial surgeon.
Certainly, the treatment plan will come from another specialist, but when the dental crown or another implant requires installation, a surgeon will embed a small anchor piece onto your jaw bone or palate. This is the standard procedure for dental crowns, bridges, and dentures.
Your dental health specialists will ensure you have healthy bones and periodontal tissues to anchor the necessary pieces and avoid additional complications.
What Are the Risks of Oral Surgery?
As with any surgery, oral surgeries involve some risks. Even the most common surgery for tooth extractions carries the risk of damaging nerves.
An extreme case involves the damage of facial nerves, leading to loss of feeling or sensibility around the area. However, this is extremely rare.
Common side effects you can expect after undergoing oral surgery are pain, bleeding, swelling, and occasional infections. These side effects are easy to treat and are often quick to disappear. Dental surgeons will usually prescribe antibiotics to prevent and fight off any type of infection.
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