If your dentist mentions the “oral surgeon” because of a toothache that has lasted for weeks already, don’t panic. The dentist might have mentioned an oral surgeon because the pain you have been nursing has become unbearable. Or maybe your jaw has been feeling sore. Or perhaps you have lost a tooth recently.
But just because you heard him say you need an oral surgeon; you might think something is seriously wrong and that you are about to go through a dangerous and painful procedure.
The truth is, oral surgery is standard practice to help with conditions that many patients have, such as impacted wisdom teeth, or sleep apnea.
When a dentist recommends a consultation with an oral surgeon, it usually means your dentist wants you to get the best oral care possible.
What is an oral surgeon or what is a maxillofacial surgeon?
The oral and maxillofacial surgeon performs surgery on the tissues of your mouth, including your teeth and gums, or, in the case of maxillofacial surgery, in your jaw, head, or face.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons need to complete extra training and education, more than the normal for a dentist. Some even get a medical degree along with their oral surgery diplomas.
They complete at least 4 years of hospital-based surgical program alongside medical residents in many different specialties, including anesthesia. They put in years in training in the use of the various types of sedatives and anesthetics.
An oral or maxillofacial surgeon is well-qualified to perform your dental treatment and administer anesthesia and sedation.
What are examples of oral surgery?
Oral surgeons perform a variety of procedures, as well as to provide consultations in situations where general dentists may be unsure as to whether surgical treatment is necessary.
Here are some common types of situations that an oral surgeon can help with:
Overbite or underbite issues – People with excessive overbites or underbites, trouble chewing or swallowing, certain birth defects, or sleep apnea have need orthognathic surgery.
Most of the time, your orthodontist can correct misaligned teeth. However, if the misalignment is caused by your jaw, an oral surgeon might be necessary.
Impacted teeth – It is not uncommon for the third molars, or wisdom teeth, to be trapped, or impacted, because of failing to erupt fully. Over time, this can cause pain, sore gums, and even infections. It can lead to misalignment of the other teeth. Furthermore, food can easily become trapped around wisdom teeth, which then leads to gum disease and tooth decay.
Your oral surgeon can remove the impacted wisdom tooth, even before it presents any problems.
But it’s not just wisdom teeth that can be impacted and need to be removed. Other teeth, such as the cuspids and bicuspids, can become impacted. This can cause the same types of problems as impacted wisdom teeth.
Dental implants – Dental implants are an option for replacing missing teeth. The surgeon implants a titanium post into your jaw. After this post has integrated into your jaw, your dentist attaches an artificial tooth onto the post. This results in a permanent replacement that look and feel like your natural teeth.
Sleep and breathing issues – Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that requires treatment. This disorder causes you to stop breathing for brief periods during sleep.
While there are many options to treat this condition, such as the use of a machine to help open your airway during sleep, surgery is an option for some.
An oral surgeon can remove excess tissue from the back of your throat, clearing the airway and lessening symptoms significantly. Or the surgeon can make your airway bigger by adjusting a part of your mouth or nasal passages.
Jaw-joint issues – Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jaw to your skull. The TMJ is that ‘hinge’ right in front of your ears. A TMJ disorder can cause pain, jaw popping, stiffness, and headaches.
This can be treated with oral devices, pain medications, and sometimes, ice packs can help. But there are some people with recurring TMJ problems and may need surgery.
Reconstructive and jaw surgery – Maxillofacial surgeons can help with problems with jaw alignment as well as injuries that may require surgical intervention. This type of surgery can improve a patient’s appearance, and it can also relieve pain as well as help the patient be able to chew food properly.
Cancer treatment – Oral surgeons can also treat cancers. They not only treat cancers of the mouth but also of the head and neck, or of the salivary glands, sinuses, throat, larynx, and lips.
- Other – Oral surgeons can also help with nerve repair, cleft lip and cleft palate surgery, removal of lesions on the face or inside the mouth.
Do you need oral surgery?
Usually, your dentist will be the first to recommend oral surgery if you need it. They know your oral needs because they have examined your mouth. They will be able to determine if you have any of the conditions mentioned above.
In other cases, such as sleep issues, cancer treatment, etc., your doctor will be recommending an oral or maxillofacial surgery.
When your doctor or your dentist recommends surgery, they will also recommend a surgeon they think is best in your area.
But if you feel like there is something wrong in your mouth that hasn’t been examined by a doctor or dentist, be sure to make an appointment so you can be examined.
No matter how you find out that you need oral surgery, don’t hesitate to educate yourself by asking questions. Sometimes, you might want a second opinion.
Call our office to make an appointment if you feel something is wrong in your mouth and need an examination. We will be happy to see you and determine the right treatment for you.
About Dr. Steven Paul, MD, DDS
Dr. Paul is a member of the American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons.
He has devoted his profession to all aspects of Oral Surgery with special interests in the treatment and restoration of missing teeth through dental implant procedures including advanced techniques in full mouth rehabilitation (All on 4), bone and soft tissue grafting, restoring both function and aesthetics, as well as extraction of wisdom teeth and associated cysts and tumors of the oral cavity. All this done through anesthetic techniques specific for each individual patient.
NOTE: This article is intended to promote understanding of, and general knowledge about oral surgery. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dental care specialist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.