Oral Maxillofacial Surgery and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Oral maxillofacial surgery tends to several types of conditions affecting the face, mouth and jaw, and isn't limited to your local dental practice. From a family dentist's office to the operating room of a hospital, these procedures run the gamet from the simple to the extremely complex in order to deliver the solution a patient needs.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

As experts in extractions, injury repair and everything in between, these individuals are the trademark of oral maxillofacial treatment. To become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, an additional four years of training are required after graduation from dental school. This may take place at a dental school or at a hospital that provides residency training for dentists and physicians. Some training programs also require the oral surgery resident to attend medical school, increasing his or her education by four to as many as seven years. Nonetheless, all oral surgeons receive extensive training in general anesthesia and intravenous sedation. Oral maxillofacial surgery offices are equipped to safely put you to sleep for your dental procedure.

Treatment Beyond Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Although the removal of impacted wisdom teeth is probably one of the most common forms of oral maxillofacial surgery people undergo, there are many other areas of oral maxillofacial surgery, some of which overlap with medical disciplines outside of dentistry. The majority of this overlap is in head and neck cancer, facial trauma, cleft lip, palatal birth defects and facial cosmetic surgeries such as eye and nose recontouring. Therefore, other dental specialties – of which there are nine, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) – can provide supplementary treatment as well. Oral pathology, for example, can help identify the causes and effects of a facial condition, so doctors can design the ideal procedure. Some of these procedures can be done in the operating room of hospitals and allow you to be admitted overnight. Fixing broken bones in the face, for example, is usually performed by the oral maxillofacial surgeon in a hospital's emergency room. Those suffering from sleep apnea may also require oral surgery to improve their breathing while they sleep.

Dento-Alveolar Surgery and Intraoral Office Surgery

Dento-alveolar surgery focuses on conditions specific to the teeth and surrounding tissues, and according to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), extraction is therefore the most common procedure. The oral maxillofacial surgeon is trained in placing dental implants and working with the general dentist in helping to replace missing teeth. He also works closely with orthodontists in straightening teeth that require jaw surgery to get the bite just right. The oral maxillofacial surgeon may perform surgery on the TMJ joint in people who develop pathology of the jaw joint, as well.

Cosmetic Surgery

Facial aesthetic treatment is now routinely provided by oral maxillofacial surgeons. This can include laser skin procedures, dermal fillers and even botox for aging and wrinkles. More complex aesthetic surgery is also available through this specialty.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) is the official organization for the surgeons, and myoms.org is a great resource for learning more about the different types of surgery and finding an oral maxillofacial surgeon in your community.

About the author: James Burke Fine, DMD, is an Associate Dean for Postdoctoral Programs, Professor of Clinical Dentistry, and Director of Post Graduate Periodontics at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, New York. He has been a principal investigator or co-investigator in funded research projects and has authored or co-authored numerous articles, chapters, and abstracts in the literature regarding periodontal disease, including co-authoring the text Clinical Guide to Periodontics. In addition, Fine has presented at invited lectures and seminars. He maintains a practice limited to periodontics in Hoboken, NJ, and in the faculty practice at Columbia University.

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