Oral and maxillofacial surgery is surgery to correct a wide spectrum of diseases, injuries and defects in the head, neck, face, jaws, and the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. It is a recognized international surgical specialty, and it is one of the nine specialties of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association.
Oral Surgeons: Changing Lives with a Smile
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the only recognized dental specialists who, after completing dental school, are surgically trained in an American Dental Association-accredited hospital-based residency program for a minimum of four years. Their training focuses almost exclusively on the hard and soft tissue of the face, mouth, and jaws, and their knowledge and surgical expertise uniquely qualify them to diagnose and treat the functional and aesthetic conditions in this part of the body.
Conditions and Treatments
Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon has many years of education and hands-on training to provide treatment for a wide range of conditions. Some of these include:
Corrective Jaw Surgery
- Corrective jaw or orthognathic surgery is performed in which the upper jaw, lower jaw, and chin may be repositioned to correct minor and major skeletal and dental irregularities, including the misalignment of jaws and teeth which can improve chewing, speaking, and breathing. Difficulty chewing or biting food, excessive wear of teeth, a receding chin, a protruding jaw, or sleep apnea may indicate the need for corrective jaw surgery.
- Wisdom teeth are the last set of teeth to develop. Sometimes they emerge from the gum line, and the jaw is large enough to allow room for them, but more often than not, they fail to emerge and become impacted. When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it may need to be removed. Impacted wisdom teeth that are partially or fully erupted tend to be quite difficult to clean and are susceptible to tooth decay, recurring infections, and even gum disease. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons strongly recommends that wisdom teeth be removed by the time the patient is a young adult in order to prevent future problems and to ensure optimal healing.
- Maxillofacial injuries or facial trauma encompass any injury to the mouth, face, and jaw. One of the most common types of serious injury to the face occurs when bones are broken. Fractures can involve the lower jaw, upper jaw, palate, cheekbones, eye sockets, or combinations of these bones. These injuries can affect sight and the ability to breathe, speak, and swallow. Because of this, the expertise of the oral and maxillofacial surgeon is indispensable. Avoiding injury is always best, so it is extremely important to use seat belts, protective mouthguards, and appropriate masks and helmets for everyone who participates in athletic pursuits at any level..
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeons recommend that everyone perform an oral cancer self-exam each month. If you notice white or red patches, an abnormal lump, chronic sore throat or hoarseness, or difficulty chewing or swallowing, you should contact your oral and maxillofacial surgeon. They will remove a section of tissue to perform a biopsy and accurately diagnose the problem.
- Dental implants are long-term replacements for missing teeth that your oral and maxillofacial surgeon surgically places in the jawbone. Composed of titanium metal that fuses with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration, dental implants never slip and never decay. Because dental implants fuse with the jawbone, bone loss is generally not a problem.
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeons have the ability to provide patients with safe, effective outpatient anesthesia including local anesthesia, nitrous oxide, IV sedation, and general anesthesia. During their surgical residency, residents must complete a rotation on the medical anesthesiology service where they become competent in evaluating patients for anesthesia, delivering the anesthetic, and monitoring post-anesthetic patients.