Do I Need an Oral Surgeon or a Dentist?
Choosing the correct health care professional for certain things can be daunting. When you’re experiencing a specific pain or issue, do you call your primary care provider first or do you go straight to a specialist? It can be confusing to know what your insurance will cover, too, and if it’s necessary to get a referral first to see anyone other than your primary care provider.
While you might not think that this same question can crop up with dental work, the truth of the matter is that many patients have these same questions with faced with the question: do I need a dentist or an oral surgeon? Below, we’ll give you a simple guide designed for Dr. Ku’s patients and anyone else wondering whether it’s necessary to see a dentist or an oral surgeon.
What do oral surgeons do?
An oral surgeon is a dental specialist who is trained to perform surgical procedures on the mouth, teeth, jaws, and face. Dentists can perform minor oral surgeries, however, so it’s important to know who does what.
If you’ve already had contact with an oral surgeon, it was most likely when you needed your wisdom teeth removed. Oral surgeons are experts in impacted or partially erupted teeth, among many other things. Also, since these procedures may need a higher level of anesthesia, it often requires a setting similar but different than your Fort Worth dentist’s office. Oral surgeon’s also handle more specific and complex issues with the mouth and jaw.
For example, oral surgeons perform cleft lip or cleft palate surgeries. (Cleft lip and cleft palate are both birth defects that need significant early intervention and long-term coordination between providers.) The most common treatment for a cleft lip or palate is surgery. In general, the first surgery occurs prior to one year with follow up surgeries that could occur throughout childhood and the teenage years. The cleft lip surgery will close the separation in the lip while a cleft palate surgery will close the separation on the roof of the mouth and rebuild both the hard and soft palate.
Facial cosmetic surgery is another specialty of oral surgeons. Unlike plastic surgery, which focuses on repairing defects to reconstruct facial function and appearance, cosmetic surgery is focused on enhancing appearance.
Finally, oral surgeons also do complex tooth implants. The procedure for placing a dental implant often varies depending on the technique used by the surgeon and the type of implant elected.
Procedures and services offered by your Fort Worth dentist, Dr. Ku
When faced with a dental emergency or even just a mundane issue, you might wonder if you can call Dr. Ku’s office or if you need to go to a specialist like an oral surgeon. As a quick reference, Dr. Ku’s website lists all the services he offers. As you can imagine, the most common services Dr. Ku offers are dental cleaning and exams. Dental cleanings are essential to maintaining a healthy mouth. At a cleaning appointment, you might also have x-rays performed, which is another service that Dr. Ku offers. As part of your routine dental exam, Dr. Ku will also provide an oral cancer screening. This is an important aspect of your appointment since signs of oral cancer can mirror a variety of different illnesses. From a sore throat to an ear infection, oral cancer can feel like other ailments you have experienced before.
Another unique dental service offered by Dr. Ku is tooth whitening. Teeth whitening is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures out there—and for good reason! One quick appointment will leave you feeling more confident and with a little extra pep in your step. The best part about in-office teeth whitening is that the color lasts for at least a year.
Finally, Dr. Ku offers anxious patients the option of sedation dentistry. Each form of sedation works a little differently, but they all work with the brain and nervous system to reduce fear and anxiety while many times blocking out any memories of the event. Many patients report a feeling of deep relaxation throughout the appointment. This is a great option for patients who have been avoiding the dentist due to fear.
Services provided by BOTH your dentist and an oral surgeon
When reading the lists of services provided by an oral surgeon, you might see some similarities between those services and the ones offered by your regular dentist, particularly Dr. Ku. For example, both an oral surgeon and your dentist can be able to perform dental implants. This is a common procedure in Dr. Ku’s office—maybe you, yourself, have had one in his Fort Worth office! However, a recent survey indicated that only about 10% of general dentists are able to offer this, which is why many patients around the country go to an oral surgeon instead. Some say that the procedure is too difficult or requires equipment a general practice doesn’t have, so it’s easier to refer patients out. However, skilled dentists have both the knowledge and equipment to perform dental implants in-office. If you are in need of an implant, discuss with your dentist who the best provider might be. The answer will generally depend on the complexity of the procedure as well as any potential complications that could arise.
Coordination between your oral surgeon and dentist
We’ve had some patients concerned that their dentists could be offended if they asked for a referral to an oral surgeon, or if their dentists find out that they visited an oral surgeon for a consultation. We’re here to tell you, however, that you don’t need to worry! In fact, we encourage you to reach out to our office so we can coordinate any care you need with your oral surgeon. We can work with the other provider to share imaging, potential issues, or any other diagnostics that are relevant to the needed procedure. In addition, if you are looking for a referral, your dentist can provide recommendations to local providers.