THE ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL SURGEON
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the surgical specialists of the dental profession. Their extensive education and training, surgical expertise and unparalleled understanding of esthetics and function uniquely qualify them to treat the conditions, defects, injuries and esthestic aspects of the mouth, teeth, jaws and face. Patients who complain of pain or problems in this area are routinely referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for help.
Training and Scope of Practice
Following dental school, oral and maxillofacial surgeons complete a minimum of four years in a hospital-based surgical residency program. They train alongside medical residents in anesthesiology, internal medicine, general surgery, otolaryngology (Head & Neck surgery), plastic surgery and emergency medicine. Their training focuses almost exclusively on the hard (ie, bone) and soft (ie, skin, muscle) tissue of the face, mouth, and jaws. Depending on the residency program, some surgeons may also choose to earn a medical or other advanced degree. Some may also complete fellowships in sub-specialty areas.
At the conclusion of this demanding program, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are well-prepared to:
- Manage diseases of the teeth and their supporting soft and hard tissues.
- Surgically reconstruct inadequate bone structure in the jaw area.
- Evaluate, plan a course of treatment and place dental implants to replace one, two or a mouthful of missing teeth.
- Expertly treat head and neck trauma and injuries to the face, jaws, mouth and teeth.
- Diagnose and treat facial pain.
- Diagnose and treat oral cancer and other diseases in the maxillofacial region.
- Perform corrective jaw surgery to improve the function and appearance of patients with such conditions as cleft lip and palate and other congenital defects.
- Diagnose and surgically treat obstructive sleep apnea.
- Perform facial cosmetic procedures to enhance facial appearance and function.
Office Surgery and Anesthesia
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are unique among non-anesthesiology practitioners in health care, in that they train with anesthesiologists and anesthesiology residents. No other dental or medical specialty requires this level of training and, as a result, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the only healthcare specialists, aside from anesthesiologists, to administer all levels of sedation and general anesthesia. Anesthesia administered in the oral and maxillofacial surgery office ranges from conscious sedation, to deep IV sedation and general anesthesia. The level of anesthesia administered is carefully matched to the specific needs of the patient and the type of procedure that is to be performed.