When it comes to maintaining good oral health, regular visits to the dentist are essential. However, there are certain cases where more specialized care is required. This is where an oral surgeon comes into play. Oral surgery involves surgical procedures in or around the mouth and jaw, addressing a wide range of dental and facial conditions.
This blog post will discuss what does an oral surgeon do and their education and training. This way, you can better understand their role and importance in maintaining your overall oral health.
What Is Oral Surgery?
Oral surgery, also known as oral and maxillofacial surgery, is a dental specialty that focuses on treating diseases, injuries, and defects in the hard and soft tissues of the mouth, jaw, face, and neck. This can involve both functional and aesthetic aspects.
These procedures can range from difficult tooth extractions to complex surgeries involving the correction of jaw abnormalities or the placement of dental implants. Oral surgery is performed carefully by highly trained oral and maxillofacial surgeons with dental and medical qualifications.
Common Oral Surgery Procedures
The following are some oral surgery types:
1. Tooth Extractions
This is perhaps the most common type of oral surgery. Extractions are often required when teeth become damaged or decayed beyond repair or for wisdom teeth that are impacted or causing problems.
2. Dental Implants
Oral surgeons can perform procedures to replace missing teeth with dental implants, which are artificial tooth roots topped with a crown to mimic the appearance of a natural tooth.
3. Corrective Jaw Surgery
Also known as orthognathic surgery, this can correct a range of minor and major skeletal and dental irregularities, including misalignment of jaws and teeth, which can improve chewing, speaking, and overall oral health.
4. Bone Grafts
This type of surgery is often done in preparation for dental implants. If a patient’s jawbone isn’t thick enough or is too soft, a bone graft can create a more solid base for the implant.
5. Cleft Lip and Palate Repair
Cleft palate and cleft lip are birth defects that affect the upper lip and roof of the mouth. Oral surgeons often work as part of a team of healthcare professionals to correct these congenital disabilities, which involve openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate), or both.
6. Treatment of Facial Trauma
This can include reconstructive procedures, such as repairing skin lacerations, setting up fractured jaw or facial bones, and reconnecting severed nerves. They also treat other injuries caused by trauma to the face and mouth, commonly performed in a hospital setting or other specialized health facility.
7. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
Oral surgeons can diagnose and treat conditions that affect the joints, muscles, and nerves in the jaw.
8. Dental Abscess Drainage
An abscess is a pocket of pus caused by an infection. If this occurs in the mouth or jaw area, an oral surgeon may drain it to prevent the infection from spreading further.
If there are any abnormalities or growths in the mouth, an oral surgeon can perform a biopsy to determine if they are benign or malignant.
10. Neck Cancers
Oral surgeons specialize in treating diseases, injuries, and defects in the hard and soft tissues of the face, mouth, and jaws. They can be involved if the cancer affects these areas.
11. Oral Cancers
Oral surgeons often work alongside other specialists, such as radiation oncologists, who treat cancer with radiation, and medical oncologists, who treat cancer with medication. In some cases, plastic and reconstructive surgeons may also be involved, particularly if the surgery significantly changes the patient’s appearance or function.
In addition to treating the cancer, oral surgeons can help manage some of the side effects of oral cancer and its treatment, such as difficulties with speaking and chewing function.
12. Microvascular Reconstruction
Microvascular reconstruction is a surgical procedure used to repair complex defects in the head and neck. This technique involves moving a composite piece of tissue, which may include skin, muscle, bone, and blood vessels, from another part of the body to the head and neck. The small blood vessels are then reconnected to restore blood flow to the transplanted tissue, hence the term “microvascular.”
Oral surgeons work in close collaboration with other specialists, such as plastic and reconstructive surgeons, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors), and oncologists (cancer doctors).
What Is an Oral Surgeon?
An oral surgeon, also known as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, is a dental specialist who has undergone extensive training to perform surgical procedures related to the mouth, teeth, jaws, and face. They can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions, including tooth extractions, corrective jaw surgery, dental implant placement, and facial trauma management, among others.
Education and Training
The journey to becoming an oral surgeon is a long one, typically taking around 12-14 years:
Undergraduate Degree: Like all dentists, oral surgeons start their education with a bachelor’s degree. While there’s no specific requirement for the major, students often choose a science-related field due to the prerequisite courses required for dental school admission.
Medical Degree: After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, aspiring oral surgeons must attend dental school, which typically lasts four years. The first two years generally focus on classroom and laboratory studies in health and dental science, while the final two years involve supervised clinical practice.
Specialty Training: Upon completion of dental school, those aspiring to become oral surgeons must then enter a four to six-year oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program. This program provides intensive clinical, surgical, and anesthesia training.
After this rigorous education and training, oral surgeons are exceptionally equipped to perform a variety of surgical procedures involving the oral cavity and facial structure.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialize in treating many diseases, injuries, and defects in the head, neck, face, jaws, and the hard and soft tissues of the oral (mouth) and maxillofacial (jaws and face) region. This can include everything from removing impacted teeth to performing complex reconstructive surgeries.
They are also trained to administer all forms of anesthesia and provide care in an office setting, making them able to perform a wide array of procedures in a safe, efficient, and comfortable manner.
Oral surgeons often work closely with other specialists like orthodontists, prosthodontists, radiologists, pathologists, and oncologists, providing comprehensive care to patients.
How Long Does Oral Surgery Take?
The duration of an oral surgery procedure varies depending on the complexity of the case and the specific procedure being performed. Simple extractions, such as removing a single tooth, can usually be completed in minutes. On the other hand, more complex procedures like orthognathic surgery or dental implant placement may take several hours to complete.
It is important to note that the healing and recovery process after oral surgery can also vary, with some procedures requiring several weeks or even months for full recovery.
What to Look for in a Good Maxillofacial Surgeon
Choosing a skilled and board-certified oral surgeon is crucial for successful oral and facial surgical procedures. Here are some key factors to consider:
Comprehensive Education, Training, and Extensive Experience: Make sure the surgeon has undergone extensive training in the field and has a wealth of experience performing the type of surgery you require.
Proper Credentials: The surgeon should be board-certified by a recognized professional body, indicating they have met certain standards in education, training, and practice.
Excellent Track Record: Look for a surgeon with a history of successful surgeries and satisfied patients. Reviews and testimonials can provide valuable information about the surgeon’s skills and patient care.
Range of Services: A great oral surgeon should offer a wide range of services, reflecting their expertise in various aspects of oral and maxillofacial surgery.
Up-to-Date Techniques: The surgeon must stay current with the latest techniques and technologies in the field, which can lead to better outcomes and less discomfort for patients.
Professional, Comfortable Atmosphere: The clinic or hospital environment should be clean, organized, and comfortable, with friendly, helpful staff. This can make the overall experience much more positive.
Insurance and Payment Plans: The surgeon’s office should be able to work with your insurance company and offer flexible payment plans if necessary.
What Are Dental Surgeries?
Dental surgery refers to any surgical procedure involving the teeth and gums. This can be performed by a general dentist or a specialist, depending on the complexity of the treatment.
A Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) is a degree awarded to a dentist upon completion of dental school. A DDS may perform dental surgery, but their scope is not limited to surgical treatments. They also focus on preventative care, diagnosis of diseases and health issues related to the oral cavity, and perform restorative procedures like fillings and crowns.
Some examples of dental surgeries include:
- Tooth Extractions: Dental surgeons perform these common procedures when a tooth is severely decayed, damaged, or impacted. They may also remove teeth in preparation for orthodontic treatments or denture placement.
- Root Canals: This dental operation involves removing infected or damaged tooth pulp and filling the space with a biocompatible material. Root canals aim to save a tooth from extraction and relieve pain caused by infection or inflammation.
- Dental Implants: While it is more common for oral surgeons to perform dental implant placement, some general dentists are trained in this procedure as well. Dental implants are artificial tooth roots surgically placed into the jawbone to support prosthetic teeth or dentures.
- Periodontal Surgery: General dentists may perform certain periodontal surgeries to treat advanced gum disease or to correct gum recession. These procedures include pocket reduction surgery, gum grafting, or crown lengthening.
- Gum Grafts: General dentists may perform gum grafting, a procedure that involves taking tissue from one area of the mouth (often the palate) and grafting it onto areas where the gums have receded. This procedure helps to restore gum tissue and prevent further damage to the teeth and underlying bone.
Experience Gentle Dental and Oral Surgical Care at Smile Lake Anna Today
An oral surgeon is an essential part of any dental team, and at Smile Lake Anna in Spotsylvania, we have highly skilled specialists who provide gentle and precise examinations and surgeries. As your healthcare provider, we aim to provide exceptional and positive patient care experiences to help our patients achieve optimal oral health and function.
If you require any oral and dental procedures, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about our services!