Reviewed by Dr. J. Travis Thompson, DDS

Reading time: four minutes.

If you want to make informed decisions about your oral health care, you need to understand the various types of dental specialists

Though general dentists serve as the primary oral health care provider for most people, there are many other specialists who focus on specific aspects of dental care.

In this blog, we will explain the differences between a general dentist and an oral surgeon, including their education, experience, and the procedures they perform.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

Both general dentists and oral surgeons are highly trained professionals who play vital roles in maintaining your oral health. However, their areas of expertise are distinct. Choosing the right specialist ensures you receive the most appropriate and effective care for your specific needs.

General Dentist

A general dentist is a licensed dental professional who serves as your primary dental care provider. They have the skills and training to handle a wide range of dental procedures and dental treatments aimed at maintaining your oral health.

Education and Training

  • Bachelor’s degree (4 years)
  • Dental school (4 years) to earn either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree
  • Licensure exams

Procedures Performed by General Dentists

  • Routine cleanings and exams: Prevention is key to maintaining a healthy smile.
  • Fillings and sealants: To treat and prevent cavities.
  • Root canals: General dentists can perform root canal treatments to save natural teeth.
  • Tooth extractions: Simple tooth extractions.
  • Cosmetic procedures: Teeth whitening, veneers, and bonding to improve the appearance of teeth.
  • Oral health education: Providing advice on proper oral hygiene techniques.

Oral Surgeon

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are dental specialists who focus on oral surgery involving the mouth, jaw, and face. These professionals require extensive education and training beyond dental school.

Education and Training

  • Bachelor’s degree (4 years)
  • Dental school (4 years) to earn a DDS or DMD degree
  • Additional surgical residency training (4–6 years)
  • Certification by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Procedures Performed by Oral Surgeons

  • Dental implants: Placing dental implants to replace missing teeth.
  • Tooth extractions: Before dental implant placement, dentures, or orthodontic treatment.
  • Wisdom tooth extractions: Including complex cases involving impacted teeth.
  • Corrective jaw surgery: To treat misaligned teeth and jawbones.
  • Reconstructive surgeries: Addressing facial injuries or defects.
  • Cleft palate surgery: Repairing birth defects affecting the oral cavity.
  • Minor surgery: Including biopsies and removal of cysts or tumors.
  • Treatment of diseases: Severe gum disease and oral diseases involving soft tissues and bone structure.

Read Why See an Oral Surgeon for Third Molar Extraction to learn why oral surgeons are the best choice for this surgery. 

Other Dental Specialists

Though general dentists and oral surgeons handle a broad spectrum of dental needs, there are other specialists who focus on specific areas of oral health:

  • Pediatric dentist (pedodontist): Specializes in the oral care of children
  • Orthodontist: Focuses on straightening teeth and correcting bite issues
  • Periodontist: Treats gum disease and performs gum grafts
  • Endodontist: Specializes in root canal treatments and endodontic retreatment 
  • Prosthodontist: Replaces missing teeth with dentures, bridges, or implants
  • Oral pathologist: Diagnoses oral diseases, including cancer

Your Trusted Oral Surgeons in Deer Park, IL

General dentists and oral surgeons are both highly skilled dental specialists and essential in the dental field, but their roles differ significantly. When you need advanced dental treatments or oral surgeries, it’s important to seek out an experienced and reputable oral surgeon.

At Oral Facial and Implant Specialists, we offer a wide range of dental procedures to help you achieve optimal oral health. Our experienced surgeons Dr. Thompson and Dr. Martin are committed to providing exceptional care and personalized treatment plans for every patient.

If you are searching for an oral surgeon in Deer Park, IL, Grove, IL or Arlington Heights, IL we can help! Call (847) 381-0106 to schedule an appointment or fill in the online booking form.


What are the three classifications of dental services?

Preventive dentistry: Routine cleanings, exams, and oral health education.
Restorative restorative: Fillings, root canals, and crowns to repair damaged teeth.
Cosmetic dentistry: Procedures that improve the appearance of teeth, such as whitening and veneers.

Can a DMD do root canals?

Yes, a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) can perform root canals. General dentists, including those with a DMD degree, often have the training to perform this procedure, although more complex cases may be referred to an endodontist.

What is the highest degree for a dental doctor?

The highest degree for a dental doctor is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Both degrees are equivalent and denote that the holder has completed a dental school program.

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