Oral Maxillofacial Surgery And The Oral And Maxillofacial Surgeon

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Oral maxillofacial surgery tends to several types of conditions affecting the face, mouth and jaw; it isn't limited to your local dental practice. From a family dentist's office to an operating theatre, these procedures run the gamut 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 hospital that provides residency training for dentists and physicians. All oral surgeons receive extensive training in general anaesthesia 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 impacted wisdom teeth removal is probably one of the most common forms of oral maxillofacial surgery undergone by patients, oral maxillofacial surgery includes many other areas, some of which overlap with medical disciplines outside of dentistry. The majority of this overlap concerns head and neck cancer, facial trauma, cleft lip, palatal birth defects and facial cosmetic surgeries, such as eye and nose recontouring. Accordingly, other dental specialties – of which there are nine, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) – can also provide supplementary treatment. Oral pathology, for example, can help identify the causes and effects of a facial condition so that doctors can design the ideal procedure. Some of these procedures can be done in the operating room of hospitals and allow patients 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. 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. Moreover, the oral maxillofacial surgeon may perform surgery on the TMJ joint in people who develop pathology of the jaw joint.

Cosmetic Surgery

Aesthetic facial treatment is now routinely provided by oral maxillofacial surgeons and GP dentists alike. This can include laser skin procedures, dermal fillers and even botox for aging and wrinkles. These professionals can also perform more complex aesthetic surgery.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) is the official US organisation for these surgeons, and myoms.org is a great resource to learn more about the different types of surgery.

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.


This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and germs can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.

Keep your teeth clean with an oral health routine.

Establishing an oral health routine is important for a healthy mouth. Try one of our oral health products to help you establish a schedule.