Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery for Conditions Affecting the Facial Structures

If your dentist has suggested you may need “oral and maxillofacial surgery,” you probably have a lot of questions. What will oral surgery be like? How long will recovery be? What, if any, are the risks involved?  

The truth is that oral surgery procedures are quite common and address conditions that many people experience at least one time in their life, such as tooth loss or impacted wisdom teeth. Every case is different, but many patients can resume work and normal activities within a few days of their surgical procedure.

What Is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders, diseases, injuries, and defects of the facial complex, including the jaws and oral cavity. Training in both medicine and dentistry allows these surgeons to treat conditions pertaining to both fields, such as congenital face disproportion, trauma, oral cancer, salivary gland disease, temporomandibular joint disorders, tumors, and dental implant surgery.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is recognized as a dental specialty by the American Dental Association. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons must complete advanced training, which includes:

  • 4 years of undergraduate study (BS, BA, or equivalent degree)
  • 4 years of dental school
  • 4-6 years of residency training, which includes the two extra years required for a medical degree
  • Passing the specialty exams of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

The average time it takes to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon after high school is 12 to 14 years. In addition, many graduates pursue fellowships to gain subspecialty expertise in one of the following areas:

  • Cosmetic facial surgery
  • Head and neck cancer reconstruction
  • Cranio-maxillofacial trauma, i.e. soft tissue/skeletal injuries to the facial area
  • Pediatric maxillofacial and craniofacial surgery, i.e. cleft lip and palate repair

Types of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Patients are referred to oral and maxillofacial surgeons by both general dentists and medical doctors. Oftentimes, oral and maxillofacial surgeons will work in collaboration with other specialists such as orthodontists, plastic surgeons, or oncologists to provide comprehensive care for conditions that affect the facial structures. Below, read on to learn more about major conditions and treatments:

  • Dentoalveolar surgery. The alveolar bone contains the tooth sockets (dental alveoli) on the maxilla and mandible. Dentoalveolar surgery simply refers to any procedure involving this area of the mouth: tooth extraction, impacted teeth, or bone grafting, as examples.
  • oral and maxillofacial surgeryTooth extraction. Sometimes, a diseased or damaged tooth cannot be saved using endodontic treatment. Pulling the tooth may be the only option if it is too damaged to be repaired with a filling or crown. Extraction is also necessary for some orthodontic patients to ensure adequate room for other teeth as they move into the correct position.
  • Impacted tooth extraction. Approximately 9 of 10 people have at least one wisdom tooth that requires removal, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. When a tooth doesn’t fully grow in, it is called “impacted” because there isn’t enough room for it to break through the gums. An impacted tooth carries several risks: damaging the nearby teeth, becoming infected, or developing a tumor. In cases where one of these serious conditions has developed, surgery should be performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
  • Bone grafting. Periodontal disease and tooth loss lead to bone degradation in the jaw, causing the facial features to sag. Modern bone-grafting techniques have made it possible to rebuild this bone. This procedure benefits your appearance while providing a base for effective tooth replacement (implants).
  • Dental implants. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons pioneered dental implant treatment more than 25 years ago and continue to be leaders in the the use of innovative techniques that improve patient outcomes. Their extensive training and finely honed surgical techniques allow them to place implants successfully even in many high-risk patients (those with gum disease or other chronic conditions).
  • Cosmetic surgery of the head and neck. Cosmetic surgery is used to reconstruct facial structures damaged by trauma or improve overall appearance and function. Any facial cosmetic surgery requires the expertise of maxillofacial surgeons, many of whom can perform the procedure on an outpatient basis at their offices. A few examples of popular cosmetic surgeries include facelift, cheek augmentation, lip enhancement, and liposuction.
  • Craniofacial surgery. Cleft lip and palate is an example of a well-known birth defect—  though there are others that affect the way in which the face or head develops. These congenital malformations can be corrected during childhood through a series of surgeries, which should be accompanied by therapy to support the child’s language development. Penn Dental Medicine takes a comprehensive approach to the treatment of craniofacial disorders through our Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic.

Schedule Your Visit at Penn Dental Medicine

Even with insurance, dental surgery can be expensive. At Penn Dental Medicine (PDM), you’ll enjoy the unique advantage of lower fees for services administered by our oral and maxillofacial residents. We are dedicated to providing the highest standard of care at our teaching clinic, where experts in the field oversee all aspects of the student dentists’ work.

If you are in need of oral and maxillofacial surgery, we encourage you to schedule a consultation at PDM to determine your eligibility to participate in our reduced-costs surgery program. To learn more, please call our offices at 215-898-8965 today.

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