Pediatric Dentists and Oral Surgery
All pediatric dentists specialize in the dental care and treatment of infants, children, and adolescents. Just like some general doctors may perform some simple surgeries, some pediatric dentists perform oral surgeries, but they are general practitioners and not surgical specialists. If your child sees a pediatric dentist and has been referred to an oral surgeon, you may be seeking information about what, exactly, a pediatric oral surgeon does and what kind of qualifications a pediatric oral surgeon has. Pediatric oral surgeons treat the oral cavity, teeth, and jaw, with a specific focus on infants, children, and adolescents, and they specialize in surgical practices. Just as neurosurgeons focus their skills and practice on the conditions that affect the nervous system, including the brain and spine, and ophthalmic surgeons only treat patients’ eyes, pediatric oral surgeons focus their skills and practice on the mouths and teeth of young people. When a pediatric dentist refers a patient to a pediatric oral surgeon, it is because of this high level of specialization; if your child’s dentist has made such a referral, it is because they believe that the necessary procedure can most successfully be performed by an experienced specialist, and, like any medical professional, they want to ensure the best outcome for their patient.
To obtain a doctorate of dental medicine, or DMD degree, a candidate must first receive an undergraduate degree and then attend dental school, eventually passing a state licensure exam that allows them to practice dentistry. To obtain a DDS degree, which stands for “doctor of dental surgery,” a dentist who has completed the necessary training for a DMD trains in a clinical setting for 4 to 6 years after dental school. Pediatric oral surgeons are qualified to perform the same surgical treatments as oral surgeons, but they gain experience and additional qualification in conditions that specifically are more likely to be experienced by children. Certain surgical procedures, like root canals, are not particularly common among young people, but when the root of a primary tooth is infected, a root canal can encourage a positive, healthy outcome when the adult teeth are ready to erupt, and all oral surgeons must be familiar and comfortable with the procedure. For this reason, a pediatric oral surgeon may seek continuing education opportunities so that they stay informed of technical and medical innovations in a vital treatment they may not perform often. Pediatric oral surgeons perform tooth extractions for a variety of clinical reasons, including routine removal of the wisdom teeth, and extractions that precede orthodontic treatment. They also repair bones that have broken in the face or jaw, perform biopsies and jaw alignment surgeries when needed, and remove cysts and tumors. Many of the surgical treatments performed by pediatric oral surgeons can have a dramatic effect on the long term health of the mouth, either by treating infection or by adjusting the bite and extracting crowded teeth, laying the foundations for a healthy mouth and a confident smile that can last a lifetime with continued attention and care.