What is Oral Surgery?

What is Oral Surgery?

Oral surgery is the realm of dentistry that involves any surgical treatment in the mouth and surrounding tissues, including the jaw joints. Oral surgery ranges from simple tooth extractions to extremely complex surgical reconstruction of the face. An oral surgeon is a specialist who received additional years of training and education after dental school. Many oral surgery residencies include a few years of medical school, and these doctors have dual degrees: both a DDS and an MD.

Many oral surgeons have hospital affiliations and treat patients there under general anesthesia.  Oral surgeons, officially titled oral and maxillofacial surgeons, care for patients who experience trauma to the face and jaws in emergency settings. Oral surgery is not simply a branch of dentistry; it is a branch of medicine, as well.

What is the Difference between Periodontics and Oral Surgery?

There is actually a lot of overlap between periodontics and oral surgery. A periodontist performs multiple surgical procedures, including gum grafting, crown lengthening, and periodontal surgery. An oral surgeon performs complex wisdom teeth extraction, oral pathology, and surgery involving facial fractures. The overlap includes such procedures using moderate sedation, tooth extractions, bone grafting, and dental implants. Both of these specialists are highly qualified in all of these surgical procedures.

While a periodontist oversees and treats all of your periodontal and implant conditions, an oral surgeon performs only the surgical aspect. While an oral surgeon performs surgeries in every area of the mouth, including the jaw joints, a periodontist only performs surgeries related to the gums, jawbone, and dental implants.

What does an Oral Surgeon Do?

The realm of oral surgery covers countless surgical procedures, which we will not cover in detail here. In general, we explain what are the most common procedures and most distinguishing skills of an oral surgeon.

Extractions of Every Kind

Simple tooth extractions are those in a relatively normal position in the mouth. Oral surgeons also extract teeth in very difficult positions. This includes situations like wisdom teeth embedded in the jawbone or extra (supernumerary) teeth in a child’s jaw. An oral surgeon often removes all of the teeth in a mouth as preparation for dentures or implants. 


Growths inside the mouth are relatively common, and the majority of them are not cancerous.  Biopsies serve two purposes: to figure out what tissue is causing the overgrowth, and to remove it. There are many different types of growths in the gums and jawbone that can occur in both children and adults. Oral surgeons work with pathologists to get specific diagnoses on oral growths. 

Oral Cancer

If a biopsy, however, does confirm a cancerous growth, the oral surgeon is the first contact in oral cancer treatment. Treatment typically involves working with both an oral surgeon and an oncologist for the best survival rate. The surgeon will remove any cancerous areas and coordinate necessary chemotherapy and radiation with an oncologist.

IV Sedation

Many patients choose to be sedated for their dental surgeries, and oral surgeons have the training and certifications to sedate patients in-office. IV sedation allows the surgeon to keep you perfectly comfortable throughout the procedure. This is commonly used for wisdom teeth extractions and dental implant placements. Oral surgeons are not the only dental specialist who provide IV sedation as an option for anxious or fearful patients.Other specialists like periodontists and endodontists also can provide this option.

Management of Complicated Medical Problems

The additional medical training of oral surgeons makes them the right practitioner to handle patients with a complicated medical history. Patients who take multiple prescription medications to treat multiple medical conditions have a higher risk of post-operative complications and failures of surgeries. The conditions themselves or the drugs used to treat them can affect and impair the body’s ability to heal, so surgeries are more stressful on the body. Closely monitoring that healing process and intervening when a complication arises is within an oral surgeon’s expertise.

Treatment of Atypical Infections

Most dental infections are very straightforward. They result from cavities or gum disease, and traditional treatments work to stop the infection. In rare cases, an infection does not respond to traditional therapies and requires more intensive investigation and treatment. The oral surgeon’s advanced medical education prepared them to treat the atypical infection.

Treatment of TMJ Disorder

The TMJ (jaw joint) is the most complex joint in the human body. It’s a ball-in-socket joint in which the “ball” comes out of the “socket” during normal function. TMJ disorders are extremely common, and different philosophies abound in the correct method of treatment. Seeing an oral surgeon for treatment of TMJ disorder does not commit you to jaw surgery. In fact, most surgeons work to manage TMJ problems non-surgically for as long as possible and see surgery as a last resort.

Jaw Repositioning

Some people experience growth deficiencies in the upper and/or lower jaws. This can lead to jaws that are mismatched to each other, asymmetrical or too small for the person’s face. While this is a cosmetic issue, it’s also a very serious functional problem.  People with incorrectly sized or shaped jaws are not able to chew or speak correctly for their entire lives. An oral surgeon performs a type of surgery, classified as orthognathic, to move and reposition the upper jaw, lower jaw, or both. The surgeon places them into the proper position for both appearance and function.  These surgeries are truly life changing!

Dental Specialists You Can Rely On in New City, NY

It’s vital to get treatment right away if your dentist finds signs of any issues requiring the skills of an oral surgeon. 

Rockland Dental Specialists offers expert state-of-the-art dental care in the New City, NY area.  Dr. Lisa Nava Cohen and Dr. Shalom Mintz are here to bring you the dental care you need with their more than two decades of combined experience. They are passionate about helping patients resolve their gum disease and maintain their overall oral health. Contact us today at (845) 809-0109 to speak with one of our team members about the endodontic services we offer or book an appointment online here.


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