An oral surgeon is a dentist who has completed formal training to be a specialist in surgery. The program usually involves four additional years of post-graduate training. An oral surgeon only performs surgery and therefore has more experience in removing impacted or un-erupted wisdom teeth. The choice of whether to seek treatment by an oral surgeon vs. a general dentist depends on many dental and non-dental factors. Here is a list of reasons which may warrant you seeking the help of a specialist:
1) Deep impactions with or without angulations. If the teeth are ‘stuck’ or have extreme angulations, you may want to see a specialist. However, many general dentists are comfortable with performing the procedure, especially if the teeth are fully erupted and straight.
2) Medical history? If you have a medical condition that makes the extraction(s) tricky, a specialist might be better option. Specialists are trained to manage more complex cases and medically compromised individuals.
3) Do you want to be asleep for the procedure? If so, all oral surgeons are licensed to provide general anesthesia. However, a general dentist can have an anesthetist provide this for you as well. As always there are risks associated with general anesthesia and you should be fully informed.
4) How many teeth are to be removed? Since specialists perform the procedure more frequently than the average general dentist they typically take less time to do the procedure, thus minimizing time under general anesthesia.
5) Is there any pathology associated with teeth? Oral surgeons have advanced training in identifying any pathology that might be associated with the impacted tooth.
6) Non-dental factors that might influence your decision include fees (specialists generally charge higher fees for the same service), insurance coverage (most specialists do not accept payment directly from your insurance company) and convenience (there are fewer oral surgeons, and many small communities do not have an oral surgeon available).
As always you should speak to your family dentist and request his or her opinion on the above factors before deciding what is right for you. Every situation is unique and you should always be well informed.