Like medicine, dentistry is comprised of various specialties, each offering specialized treatments. As patients strive towards good oral hygiene and seek “perfect” smiles, the roles of dental specialists have become increasingly important. Specialists must possess sophisticated knowledge of the latest techniques to keep up with demand. However, patients are not always aware of the specific roles of specialists. An analogy could be made with medicine, where general dentists, as general practitioners (GPs), are responsible for the overall dental health of their patients on a long-term basis, while specialists are consulted for specific treatments or conditions.
A common misconception is made between dental surgeons (doctors of dental surgery) and oral surgeons (oral and maxillofacial surgeons). While the former offer general dentistry treatments such as cleanings, fillings and crowns, the latter specialize in surgery of the teeth, face, mouth and jaw. After their training in dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgeons receive an additional 5 to 7 years of hospital-based surgical training and residency. This rigorous and intensive training includes time spent on rotation to general surgeons, ENT, plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists and many other specialties, in order for them to be eligible for national Royal College of Dentist Fellowship certification examinations. Their specialty allows them to perform both major and minor surgical procedures with ease, which translates to minimization risks, complications and maximization of post-operative recovery for patients.