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What Does an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Do?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Your general dentist helps keep your mouth healthy with regular exams, restorations, and simple cosmetic procedures. They stay busy placing crowns, fitting dentures, and assessing your risk for tooth decay and gum disease. So when an oral health issue arises that requires more complicated procedures, they might refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Find out more about oral and maxillofacial surgeons and the procedures they perform.

What Is An Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects involving the face, mouth, and jaw. This includes a range of conditions — from wisdom teeth removal to cleft lip and palate surgery.

After completing dental school, an OMS typically spends another four to six years in a hospital-based residency program. They sometimes become board-certified, seek an additional medical degree, or complete fellowships for a subspecialty.

During this time, your OMS receives extensive training and experience in all aspects of anesthesia administration. This includes airway management, endotracheal intubation, establishing and maintaining intravenous lines, and managing complications and emergencies. This anesthesia expertise becomes vital for the many surgeries an OMS performs.

What Are Common Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeries?

Your dentist might refer you to an OMS for a variety of issues. Some of the most common oral and maxillofacial surgeries include the following.

Wisdom Teeth Management and Extraction

Many people's wisdom teeth do not erupt properly. The third molar can cause overcrowding, erupt in the wrong position, or become impacted. An OMS often performs the surgery to remove wisdom teeth that pose a risk to your oral health.

Dental Implant Surgery

A dental implant can fill the gaps in your smile from missing teeth. During dental implant surgery, an OMS replaces the tooth's root area with a metal screw-like post. This provides a strong base for the artificial tooth — known as a crown — which will look, feel, and act as a natural tooth.

Facial Injury and Trauma Surgery

An OMS also treats and repairs facial injuries and trauma with their extensive knowledge of how the jaw comes together. This could include fractures in the jaw as well as the orbits surrounding the eyes.

Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Treatment

An OMS can also diagnose and surgically treat cancer of the head, neck, and mouth. Surgical treatment for oral cancer often involves removing the cancerous tissue and then reconstructing the surgical site to improve appearance and function.

Corrective Jaw Surgery

Corrective jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery, can address various functional problems by correcting the teeth and jaw's misalignment. Reasons for receiving corrective jaw surgery include problems chewing, speaking, or breathing. Addressing sleep apnea or improving your bite's appearance and function through orthodontia are other reasons to receive jaw surgery.

Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery

An OMS can also perform cleft lip and cleft palate surgery on infants and young children. This surgery restores the jaw and facial structures to lead to normal function and appearance. The OMS plays an important role in the team of healthcare specialists for cleft lip and palate patients.

TMJ Disorder and Facial Pain Treatment

If conservative approaches to treat your TMJ pain are unsuccessful or clear joint damage exists, you might require surgery. An OMS might perform an arthroscopy or repair damaged tissue through a direct surgical approach.

Facial Cosmetic Surgery

Many OMSs routinely provide aesthetic treatment to improve the appearance of your face, mouth, teeth, and jaws. These treatments include nasal reconstruction, cosmetic chin, and ear surgery, botox injections, lip enhancement, injectable fillers, facelifts, and more.

If you need to visit an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for any reason above, first talk with your general dentist. They can examine the issue, talk through the treatment process, and refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon if necessary.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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