Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are qualified dentists who have completed an additional four years of specialized training. Their advanced education includes anesthesiology and the diagnosis and surgical treatment of defects, injuries and diseases of the mouth, jaw, teeth, neck, gums and other soft tissues of the head. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are highly trained and educated in providing superior treatment for a wide range of conditions.
Corrective Jaw Surgery
Jaw surgery is needed when the upper jaw and lower jaw don’t meet correctly and/or teeth don’t seem to fit with the jaws. Teeth are straightened with orthodontics and corrective jaw surgery repositions a misaligned jaw. This not only improves facial appearance, but also ensures that teeth meet correctly and function properly. Difficulty chewing or biting food, excessive wear of teeth, a receding chin, a protruding jaw or sleep apnea may indicate the need for corrective jaw surgery.
Third molars are commonly referred to as wisdom teeth. They are usually the last teeth to develop and are located in the back of your mouth, behind your second molars. Their development is usually completed between the middle teenage years and early twenties.
Although most people develop and grow 32 permanent adult teeth, many times their jaws are too small to accommodate the four wisdom teeth. When inadequate space prevents the teeth from erupting they are called impacted. This indicates their inability to erupt into the proper position for chewing and cleaning. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons strongly recommends that wisdom teeth be removed by the time the patient is a young adult in order to prevent future problems and to ensure optimal healing.
During early pregnancy, separate areas of the face develop individually and then join together, including the left and right sides of the roof of the mouth and lips. However, if some parts do not join properly, sections don’t meet and the result is a cleft. Until it is treated with surgery, a cleft palate can cause problems with feeding, speech and hearing. The goal of the surgery is to close the separation, restore muscle function and provide normal shape to the mouth. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons work together as part of a team of healthcare specialists to correct these problems through a series of treatments and surgical procedures over many years.
There are a number of possible causes of facial trauma such as vehicle accidents, accidental falls, sports injuries and work-related injuries. Types of facial injuries can range from injuries of teeth to extremely severe injuries of the skin and bones of the face. These injuries can affect sight and the ability to breathe, speak and swallow properly. Because of this, the expertise of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is vital. Avoiding injury is always best, so it is extremely important to use seat belts, protective mouth guards and appropriate masks and helmets for everyone who participates in athletic activities at any level.
Temporomandibular Joint Surgery
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a small joint located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. It permits the lower jaw to move and function. TMJ disorders are not uncommon. Individuals with a TMJ disorder may experience a variety of symptoms, such as earaches, headaches and limited ability to open their mouth. TMJ treatment may range from conservative dental and medical care to complex surgery. If non-surgical treatment is unsuccessful or if there is clear joint damage, surgery may be indicated which can involve either arthroscopy or repair of damaged tissue by a direct surgical approach.
The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer.
The following can be signs of the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Red or white patches in the mouth
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
- A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly. Remember your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore any suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help you.
Dental implants are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything and can smile with confidence knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved.
Implants are composed of titanium metal that fuses with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration. Dental implants never slip or decay. Because dental implants fuse with the jawbone, bone loss is generally not a problem.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons have the ability to provide patients with safe and effective outpatient anesthesia including local anesthesia, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), IV sedation and general anesthesia.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained in all aspects of anesthesia administration. Following dental school, they complete at least four years of training in a hospital-based surgical residency program alongside medical residents in general surgery, anesthesia and other specialties. During this time, they evaluate patients for anesthesia, deliver the anesthetic and monitor post-anesthetic patients.