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Oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS) includes various surgical procedures involving the teeth, jaws, and soft tissues. This ranges from simple tooth extractions to more complex procedures, such as:
OMS is commonly referred to as oral surgery. “Maxillofacial” refers to the face and jaw, while “oral” refers to the mouth. Sometimes, OMS is called dentoalveolar surgery.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are board-certified dental specialists. They perform both minor and invasive procedures within the maxillofacial region (mouth, face, and jaw). Oral surgeons typically work full-time at local private practices and hospitals.
Other types of dentists, like general and pediatric dentists, can also perform minor oral surgeries, such as extractions. They do not, however, perform more invasive surgical procedures.
Talk to your dentist about any problems you’re having with your teeth, jaws, or gum tissue. They may refer you to an oral surgeon for specialized care.
People need oral surgery for a wide range of oral health concerns, including:
Oral surgeons can perform plastic surgery for face or jaw reconstruction after an injury. Some specialize in facial cosmetic surgeries, such as facelifts and nose reconstruction.
Oral surgeons require up to 15 years of formal education and surgical training to become board-certified surgeons. This schooling includes 2 to 4 years of undergraduate study (BS or BA) and 4 years of dental study.
Oral surgeons must also complete up to six years of training in a residency program. This includes an optional two additional years to receive a medical degree. Most maxillofacial surgeons have their own private practice. Some work at local dental offices or hospitals full-time.
Oral surgeons have a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. The American Dental Association (ADA) considers these degrees to be equal.
There are many oral and maxillofacial surgeries, such as implants and extractions. Patients typically require oral surgery due to:
All oral surgeries use a local anesthetic. Depending on the procedure, your surgeon may also recommend conscious sedation or general anesthesia. Common oral surgeries include:
Your surgeon will administer I.V. sedation if you prefer to sleep through the surgery. Extracting all four wisdom teeth takes about 30 minutes.
After a tooth extraction or loss, you may need a dental implant. This is an artificial tooth root that replaces your permanent tooth.
Oral surgeons are dental implant experts. They’re also qualified to use general anesthesia and other deeper levels of sedation.
During dental implant surgery, the restorations are surgically implanted into your jawbone. They create a sturdy base to support artificial teeth (dental crowns).
If you have a lot of missing teeth, your oral surgeon may recommend dentures instead of dental implants.
If you have moderate or severe gum disease, your dentist may recommend periodontal surgery. Oral surgeons perform a variety of procedures to treat gum disease, including:
Oral surgeons play a direct role in diagnosing and treating oral cancer. Doctors and physicians also play a role. Oral cancer begins with the development of abnormal cells. It results in the growth of mouth sores (cancerous lesions).
Oral cancer can develop in many areas, including:
OMS may also be involved in the treatment of neck cancer and esophageal cancer. Without early treatment, the disease is life-threatening.
Another type of OMS surgery is called reconstructive or corrective jaw surgery. It's used to:
Reconstructive surgery restores the function and form of your natural features. These surgeries often require skin, nerve, or bone grafting from another part of your body.
The same skills are necessary for cosmetic surgeries. These are elective procedures that improve facial features from aging or trauma.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital conditions that form when a baby's lips or mouth don’t grow properly. This condition happens early in pregnancy. The lip and palate develop separately, which means a cleft lip, palate, or both can occur.
Cleft palate surgery usually occurs when a child is between 6 and 12 months old. Older patients can also benefit from surgery, but it’s less common.
Orthognathic (jaw) surgery involves oral and maxillofacial surgery, as well as orthodontics.
Orthognathic translates to “straight jaw.” It combines orthodontic treatment with surgical intervention to correct misalignments and discrepancies in the jaw.
Jaw surgery may include correcting the position and size of the jaw. It can also fix severe malocclusion (incorrect bite) in those who cannot benefit from minor treatment alone, such as braces or clear aligners.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder caused by a blockage in the upper airway. Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
Surgery is considered the “last resort” for people with obstructive sleep apnea.
In addition to dental implants, oral surgeons perform many different cosmetic surgeries.
Cosmetic procedures can change the shape/look of your face, improving your appearance and self-confidence. These surgeries are elective, which means they aren't covered by insurance.
Jaw misalignment is the most common skeletal discrepancy oral surgeons treat. In particular, if you have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), your dentist will likely refer you to a maxillofacial specialist for treatment.
TMD is the most common temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder. People with TMD typically suffer from difficult symptoms, such as:
Lifestyle changes and custom mouthguards often relieve symptoms and pain over time.
For serious cases of TMD, a dental surgeon may perform a TMJ surgery.
Common TMJ surgeries include:
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