Difference Between Dentist & Dental Surgeon

Jan 02, 2019

Most people are treated by a dentist during their lifetime, but dental surgeons only see patients who need surgery to correct particular dental issues. This article compares these careers in greater detail.

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Comparing Dentist to Dental Surgeon

Dentists are dental health professionals that most people are treated by during their lifetime. Dental surgeons also provide dental care to patients, but they see patients who have conditions that must be treated by having dental surgery.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Dentist Doctoral Degree $159,770 18%
Dental Surgeon Doctoral Degree $208,000 or more 18%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Dentist vs. Dental Surgeon

Dentists and dental surgeons are professionals who are involved with the oral health care of their patients. Dentists perform routine check-ups on their patients and monitor their dental health. They treat dental cases, such as cavities, and they may also educate their patients about how to improve their dental health. Dental surgeons see patients who have deformities or other issues related to their dental health. They perform surgery on the patients they see to correct specific dental issues.


Dentists specialize in treating patients' teeth. They may also address other mouth-related health cases, such as gum disease. Dentists primarily work in dentists' offices/clinics, and may generally follow daytime hours with occasional evening and weekend shifts. Dentists are at risk of exposure to communicable illnesses so it is important that they work in sterile environments and use protective equipment. Their work involves standing and bending while they treat patients. They need to have a Doctor of Dentistry degree and must be licensed.

Job responsibilities of a dentist include:

  • Talk to patients about their dental health
  • Determine if x rays are needed
  • Treat patients with cavities
  • Order dentures for patients
  • Prescribe medication
  • Refer patients to dental surgeons or other specialists

Dental Surgeon

Dental surgeons must have a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, as well as a license for their specialty. Part of their training includes completing a residency. Since they perform surgery on patients they are required to work in sterile environments in medical facilities, and their work can involve standing for long periods of time. As surgeons, they also need exceptional fine motor skills, since they must be very precise when making incisions or stitching patients.

Job responsibilities of a dental surgeon include:

  • Reviewing patients' dental records
  • Diagnosing patients' dental conditions
  • Determining the type of surgery needed
  • Extracting teeth
  • Prescribing medication

Related Careers

It's possible that those thinking about a career as a dentist may also be interested in becoming an orthodontist because orthodontists provide oral care to patients who need braces. Those considering a career as a dental surgeon may also want to consider a career as a surgeon since surgical doctors also specialize in operating on patients.

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