Oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS) is an advanced specialty of orthodontics, requiring extensive training. In addition to completing dental school, practitioners must spend a minimum of 4 years in a hospital-based training program. Such training programs must meet the high standards of the American Dental Association in order to be accredited, meaning that oral and maxillofacial surgeons are uniquely qualified to perform the wide variety of procedures and treatments needed by their patients.
What type of procedures are included in oral and maxillofacial surgery?
Oral surgery refers specifically to procedures performed on the mouth. In contrast, maxillofacial surgery covers a wide range of procedures involving the jaw and other facial structures. However, since these structures are so closely related, many common procedures overlap, which is why specialists must be experts in all aspects of their field. Some of the most common oral and maxillofacial surgeries include the following:
- Corrective jaw surgery. Poor alignment of the upper and lower jaws can lead to many issues, ranging from trouble with chewing to sleep apnea and difficulty with breathing. Using a combination of corrective surgery and orthodontic appliances, oral surgeons can eliminate alignment issues.
- Wisdom tooth removal. Since the wisdom teeth grow in after the other teeth have fully formed and are set in place, and there is often not enough room for them, they can often cause pain, infection, or other serious problems. Early removal of the wisdom teeth can help prevent many problems down the road.
- Cleft palate repair. Approximately one in every thousand babies is born with a cleft lip or palate. Though an incompletely formed mouth and nasal cavity can cause health problems, the disorder is very treatable using modern surgical techniques. A series of procedures and treatments will be performed over several years, but children can usually expect excellent results when the treatments are completed.
- Facial trauma. Most facial trauma is a result of motor vehicle accidents and sports injuries. Common injuries include fractured bones in the jaw, face, or eye sockets; missing teeth; and lacerations to the face. With timely treatment, normal structure and function can be restored even after severe traumatic injuries.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) repair. The temporomandibular joint is the point at which your lower jaw connects to the upper jaw and skull. Disorders at this junction lead to jaw clicking, stiffness, pain, and headaches. Corrective treatments, which may include surgery, focus on restoring a complete and uninterrupted range of motion to the TMJ.
- Oral cancer. Chronic hoarseness and throat pain, white or red patches in the mouth, chronic difficulty with chewing and swallowing, and unusual lumps in and around the mouth could all be signs of oral cancer. Initially, your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will perform a biopsy of the suspicious area. If surgery is needed, the oral specialist is the most qualified practitioner for the job.
- Dental implants. Whether because of accidents or infection, many people will need to have a missing tooth replaced at some point in their lifetime. Dental implants offer a permanent solution to tooth loss. Placed during surgery, implants will bond with the natural bone of the jaw and require little special maintenance from the patient.
Is oral/maxillofacial surgery painful?
Most procedures will cause some pain during the recovery phase. However, OMS specialists are required to become experts in anesthesia services as part of their training. Depending on the procedure, the surgery might use local anesthesia, nitrous oxide, IV sedation, or even general anesthesia. Our patients can trust that their comfort will be one of our top priorities.