Oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMSes) treat medical and dental problems affecting the teeth, jaws, face, and mouth. They receive intensive training in dentistry and surgery. Conditions, injuries, esthetics, and defects that OMSes treat include facial pain, removal of complex tumors, bone grafts, misaligned jaws, problems with wisdom teeth, and much more.
They also help patients involved in traffic crashes with facial injuries, perform procedures for esthetic and functional problems of the face and jaws, put in dental implants, perform reconstructive surgery, and help people with cysts or tumors of the jaws. Below is more information on oral and maxillofacial surgeries and surgeons.
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Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Oral and maxillofacial surgery requires much more complex and intricate work than general dentistry.
OMSes are a combination of a medical doctor and dentist with degrees in medicine and dentistry which makes this specialty unique.
First, they attend dental school for four years, and then they earn a doctor of dental medicine degree (DMD) or a doctor of dental surgery degree (DMD).
Next, they attend a surgery residency program four years to six years.
Only the top students in their dental school class are considered for approximately 170 oral and maxillofacial surgery training spots. Training to be this type of surgeon is extensive and rigorous so that only the best surgeons graduate. This additional training focuses on the skin, muscles, and bones of the jaw, mouth, and face.
Here are some conditions that OMSes operate on:
- Removal of teeth that are non-restorable, impacted or damaged
- Reconstructive facial surgery after tumors are removed from the mouth face, jaw, or neck
- Facial injuries such as fractured bones in the face, facial lacerations, and intra-oral lacerations
- TMJ, temporomandibular joint disorder, a disorder common in women between the ages 20-40 with symptoms including earaches, limited mouth mobility, and headaches.
- Congenital birth defects such as jaw growth problems, palate, and cleft lip
- Infections affecting the neck, oral cavity, jaws, and salivary glands
- Issues with oral mucosa such as ulcers
- Orthognathic surgery
- Structural abnormalities of the face, mouth, and neck
- Regeneration of deficient gum tissues and bone, dental implants
- Anesthesia administration
- Management of wisdom teeth and multiple stages
- Salivary gland disease
Obstruct Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstruct Sleep Apnea (OSA) is very serious and potentially life-threatening. The National Sleep Foundation says that approximately 18 million adults have OSA. Also, around two to three percent of children are estimated to have this disorder.
Many people that suffer from OSA do not even know that they have it. If you wake up gasping for air or your significant other has talked to you about your loud snoring, you should see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. This is because during sleep a large tongue, tonsils, or excess tissues obstructs the airway.
Additionally, nasal passages, muscles that relax during sleep, and jaw position may also contribute to the problem. When the breathing stops the brain wakes the person up so that the breathing process starts again.
Undiagnosed OSA has many risks like irregular heartbeat, heart attack, decreased libido, stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure. You will also have increased episodes of drowsiness during the day which can cause accidents and problems with relationships.
Oral, Neck, and Head Cancer Doctor
Over 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral, neck, or head cancer every year. Diseases of this nature often go unnoticed and cause significant health problems that affect your daily life. Dentists are trained to detect these types of cancer, and if they find something suspicious, they will likely refer you to an oral surgeon for a biopsy.
During the biopsy, the oral surgeon takes a piece of the suspicious tissue or tumor to send to the lab for testing. Oral surgery is the primary treatment for head, neck, and oral cancer and is often used in combination with radiation treatment.
Here are some examples of neck, head, and oral cancer:
- Hypopharyngeal cancer- This cancer starts in the throat around the voice box.
- Oral cavity cancer- begins inside the mouth
- Laryngeal cancer- occurs in the voice box
- Oropharyngeal cancer- a cancer that starts near the back of the throat or mouth
- Nasopharyngeal cancer-This cancer begins behind the nose in the in the upper area of the throat
- Nasal cavity cancer -begins in the cavity behind the nose that travels around the upper part of the roof of the mouth and runs down towards the back of the throat and mouth
- Paranasal sinus cancer- starts near the nose or in the sinuses
Cosmetic Dental and Facial Procedures
Advances in technology and the development of biomaterials means that many of these procedures are minimally invasive. Most of them are done in an office setting under intravenous and/or local anesthesia. Some procedures can be done as an outpatient procedure in the hospital.
Some of these surgeries include:
- Eyelid surgery
- Cheekbone implants
- Chin Surgery
- Injectable fillers like collagen
- Laser treatment
- Ear surgery
- Chemical peel
- Neck and facial liposuction
- Botox® injections
- Brow/Forehead lift
- Skin treatments
- Lip enhancement
- Nasal reconstruction
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
OMSes are the only surgically trained dental specialists that the American Dental Association recognizes. These dentists spend time in other specialty areas like emergency medicine, plastic surgery, and anesthesiology. They train with medical residents in anesthesiology, internal medicine, and general surgery.
These surgeons train mostly on the mouth and jaw, or skin, muscles, and bones of the face. They’re exceptionally qualified to diagnose and treat many esthetic and functional conditions in these areas of the body.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons or AAOMS supports over 9,000 surgeons all over the U.S. through research, education, and advocacy. Members must meet strict educational requirements and submit periodically to anesthesia evaluations to guarantee their personnel and office processes meet the rigorous national requirements and standards.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery is vital in helping patients with oral or facial abnormalities that cause problems with people’s ability to function and their quality of life. These surgeons can perform life-altering procedures that restore their patients’ appearance and functionality.