endodontist vs oral surgeon

Do you need surgery on your mouth, and curious about what type of specialist you need to visit? The type of surgery that you need will help you to choose the right provider. There are distinctive differences in what an endodontist vs oral surgeon will do and what each excels in. We’ve created this guide that will help you to identify what each specialist does and how to determine the best option for your oral surgery needs.

What Is an Endodontist?

An endodontist is a specialist in preserving your teeth by performing root canal treatments and related surgeries to help save diseased teeth. The name endodontist refers to the inside of the tooth: “Endo” is the Greek word for inside, and “odont” is the Greek word for tooth, and it is the diseases that affect the internal spaces of the tooth that is the focus of the endodontic specialty.  

One of the most common procedures an endodontist performs is a root canal treatment. This therapy removes inflamed or infected matter from inside a tooth, often done to help keep the patient from needing an extraction. There are instances, however, when a dental problem extends beyond these internal spaces and a tooth requires micro-surgical treatments as well to be saved.

Endodontists perform surgery that addresses diseases in small spaces, such as microscopic anatomy of the ends of roots. To help with their operations of the microscopic canals inside the tooth, endodontists use high-tech imaging equipment to guide them before the microsurgery and use dental operating microscopes throughout surgery to ensure excellent visibility.

What Is an Oral Surgeon?

An oral surgeon, who may also go by the term oral and maxillofacial surgeon, is a surgical specialist capable of performing surgery anywhere in the mouth and face. These surgeons attend at least four to six years of extra education to learn about performing surgery on various sites on the face and inside the mouth. Because they treat a wider area, oral surgeons offer a wider range of surgeries.

Oral surgeons tend to perform surgeries on a broader scale and are often removing and replacing teeth to restore function for teeth that cannot be saved. They may do reconstruction surgery of damaged bones or operate on soft tissues inside and around the mouth. 

What Types of Surgery Does an Endodontist Perform?

Endodontists operate on a small level, using operating microscopes and tiny instruments and technologies to remove infection and preserve roots. They typically do not fill cavities or pull teeth.  If your dentist recommends surgery to address diseases related to the small components inside your teeth, the best specialist is an endodontist.

A common form of endodontic surgery is an apicoectomy. This operation is performed through a small incision in the gums to access inflamed tissue at the end of the root. The endodontist will remove infected tissues along with the diseased portion at the end of the tooth’s root.  To seal the canal space, a biocompatible filling material is placed in the freshly cleaned end of the root.  They will then gently suture the gum tissues closed.  Once the infection is removed and the root-end sealed, the jawbone will heal around the site with healthy new bone.

Endodontists also perform other types of surgeries as well, all of which focus on improving oral health and helping patients to save their teeth.

What Surgeries Does an Oral Surgeon Perform?

Oral surgeons generally conduct surgery on a larger scale. For instance, instead of conducting microsurgery on the tiny roots of your tooth, an oral surgeon may perform a tumor removal from the mouth, repair a cleft palate or lip, or do other remarkable procedures. In fact, almost any mouth or facial procedure that requires general anesthesia typically falls under the expertise of an oral surgeon and an anesthesiologist.

Most people know oral surgeons from visiting this type of dental professional to have their wisdom teeth removed. Oral surgeons will extract any impacted teeth, not just wisdom teeth, also known as the third molars.

Other types of surgery done by oral surgeons include placement of dental implants, removing cancerous lesions, draining infected facial or oral tissue, operating on jaws, setting broken jaw bones and facial bones, and surgically treating sleep apnea.

Endodontist vs Oral Surgeon for Dental Operations

Endodontists and oral surgeons can both operate on teeth, and both are an important part of your dental team.  However, one performs microoperations on the interior of your teeth while the other focuses on larger repair and restoration of the face and mouth. In some cases, timing may dictate whether you need an oral surgeon or an endodontist. For instance, if you have put off getting root canal therapy too long and the infection spreads, you may need to see an oral surgeon to have the tooth extracted and an implant placed into your jaw.

You will want to get prompt treatment from an endodontist as soon as your dentist recommends this type of care.  Putting off a root canal can sometimes result in an infection that has worsened to the point you may lose your tooth.   Compared to root canal procedures and surgeries,, having an oral surgeon extract a tooth to replace it with an implant will usually cost more.

If your root canal has complications, you may need endodontic surgery to avoid extraction. This type of surgery may help if you have complicated canals, infection in your tooth that a standard root canal treatment cannot remove, or if a former root canal treatment on the tooth developed complications or reinfection.

In cases of a cracked or broken tooth, you may need either an oral surgeon or an endodontist to treat it. For instance, if the tooth has a severe crack or split that goes under the gumline, you may need an extraction and implant provided by an oral surgeon. However, for a tooth with a crack, an endodontist may be able to save your tooth. Consult with an endodontist if you have this type of damage to your tooth to see if you can save and maintain it.

Learn More About Endodontic Surgery at Apex Endodontics

If your dentist recommends endodontic surgery, such as an apicoectomy, you will need an endodontist. If you still have questions about endodontic surgery, root canal treatment, endodontist vs oral surgeon, or other procedures that our specialists perform, check out our website or contact us online.