Oral and maxillofacial surgery is used to treat complex dental problems and medical conditions related to the mouth, teeth, jaws, and face requiring oral surgery. Much of the practice of oral surgery is focused on facial reconstructive surgery, facial trauma surgery, and dental procedures involving the jawbone (like wisdom tooth extractions and dental implants). The need for oral surgery should always be determined by a trained oral surgery physician (also known as a oral and maxillofacial surgeon).
What Is Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery?
Oral surgery encompasses a variety of procedures that involve surgery of the mouth (oral), jaw (maxilla), and face (facial). Some people regard oral and maxillofacial surgery as an “upgraded” form of dental surgery, but the practice extends far beyond what a dentist can perform.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMSs) train as dentists but undergo six additional years of education, including two to attain a medical degree (MD).
Some oral and maxillofacial surgeons embark on further training to perform facial cosmetic surgery, treat conditions related to cancer, perform microvascular surgery of the head or neck, or correct congenital face and skull abnormalities in children (such as cleft lip and palate).
Depending on the condition, oral and maxillofacial surgery may be performed as an inpatient, outpatient, scheduled, elective, or emergency procedure. OMSs often work alongside other surgeons (like orthopedic surgeons, surgical oncologists, or otolaryngologists) to treat complex conditions or in cases involving severe head or facial trauma.
Before seeking a trained oral surgeon, some patients may first speak with a dentist or their primary care physician to determine if an oral surgery referral is needed. However, some patients needing oral surgery support can be seen directly for simple services such as wisdom teeth removal or dental implants.