If you are like most people, you are familiar with your general dentist, whom you see twice a year for preventative health care, examinations, cleanings, and routine dental care like filling cavities. You may be unfamiliar with dental specialists like endodontist vs. oral surgeon. What is the difference?
Specialists complete general dental training just like your usual dentist but continue their education with additional specialized training in their chosen field. Both types of oral health professionals strive to restore wellness, relieve pain, and improve long-term quality of life.
What is an Endodontist?
An endodontist is a dental specialist who aims to save natural teeth and restore wellness to a patient’s mouth. An endodontist first completes general dentistry training just like your general dentist. This serves as the foundation of their education, after which an endodontist completes two or three years of additional training in the specialty covering diagnosis and treatment of dental pulp diseases, according to the American Association of Endodontists.
Some procedures an endodontist may perform include:
- Root canal treatments are often the best and the only alternative to tooth extraction. The endodontist thoroughly cleans inside the tooth, and the complex root canal system removes the diseased tissue that causes pain and reseals the area to keep harmful bacteria out.
- Endodontic retreatment to restore the tooth after a failed root canal or damage from further trauma to an area that was previously treated.
- Treating teeth that have been knocked out or hurt due to trauma. These teeth are often savable!
- Endodontic surgery is like an apicoectomy, where your doctor makes a small incision in the gum so they can reach, clean, and treat inflamed tissue at the root.
- And other treatments are designed to heal diseased teeth, save natural teeth, relieve pain, and restore wellness.
A general dentist may also perform a root canal treatment. The difference between a general dentist and an endodontist is experience and practice. For example, a typical dentist may perform two root canals weekly, while an endodontist will provide an average of 25 per week, according to the American Association of Endodontists.
This difference means an endodontist has more experience and also has more reason to invest in state-of-the-art technology that improves accuracy and patient experience. In fact, seeing a skilled endodontist early can prevent the need to see an oral surgeon later for tooth extraction and dental implants.
What is an Oral Surgeon?
As the name implies, an oral surgeon performs operations on the mouth, head, and neck, which include the teeth, gums, and jaw. In addition to training as a dentist, an oral surgeon completes specialized residency training lasting four to six years, according to the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. The individual oral surgeon’s focus varies depending on their specific specialization. For example, some oral surgeons specialize in cosmetic surgery, while others may specialize in resolving craniomaxillofacial trauma.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons is a professional association representing oral surgeons. Its press office highlights some of the unique challenges oral surgeons may take on, such as:
- Reconstructing the jaw and other parts of the face after an accident, animal bite, or other trauma.
- Treating oral cancer by removing cancerous tissue and tumors and reconstructing that area of the face.
- Removing impacted wisdom teeth.
- Realigning broken jaws due to congenital issues or severe trauma.
- Performing a gum or bone graft to restore wellness for a patient and generate healthy new bone or gum tissue.
- Installing oral implants to replace extracted teeth.
Oral surgeons may perform complex procedures that save lives, restore the structures of the face and head after disease or trauma, and help people live a life with less pain.
An oral surgeon focuses on the facial structure, jaw bone, and surrounding tissue, while an endodontist focuses more on the complex root canal system and the inner pulp of the tooth.
When Do You Need an Endodontist vs. Oral Surgeon?
As allied dental professionals, oral surgeons, endodontists, and general dentists often collaborate and refer patients to each other to provide the best care for the patient. The specific oral health professional you need will depend on your condition. We all strive to restore wellness to your teeth and gums using our expertise and specialized skills, and technology.
As mentioned, endodontists aim to treat diseased teeth with the goal of saving your natural teeth whenever possible. There are so many upsides to preserving your teeth, one of which is the fact we all have unique dental alignment, which is difficult to replicate with a prosthetic. Nothing fits your mouth quite like your own teeth.
Also, because extraction is permanent, your only option to restore that tooth is a prosthetic like dentures, a bridge, or a dental implant. Whenever you introduce something foreign to your body, like an implant or dental appliance, there is a risk your body may reject it. While in some cases, extraction is the only option to resolve pain and treat badly diseased teeth, as endodontists, we prefer to try to save your tooth first. When done in time, successful endodontic care can relieve pain, restore wellness, and improve your quality of life. It can be transformational for many people who have been experiencing untreated pain and suffering for a long time.
While we aim to prevent the need to see an oral surgeon whenever possible, we have so much respect and gratitude for oral and maxillofacial surgeons and the often life-saving and restorative work they do for many people, including those with oral cancer, traumatic facial injuries, and more.
Next Step: Schedule Your Consultation
If your dentist recommends a root canal treatment or another restorative, endodontic treatment, be sure to ask for a referral to a skilled endodontist.
At Ballantyne Endodontics, we have had the privilege of saving teeth in the Charlotte, NC, community. Our team knows firsthand the potentially life-changing power of successful care, and we aim to treat each patient as a whole individual. We bring together compassion for our patients with decades of expertise and today’s best practices and cutting-edge technology.
Contact us today to schedule your consultation appointment or to ask about getting a referral.