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Home > Dental Treatments > Oral Surgery > An Oral Surgeon Is a Specialist In Maxillofacial Surgery
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Oral Surgeon: A Specialist In Maxillofacial Surgery


An oral surgeon is a medical professional specializing in the diagnostic, surgical and functional treatment of the oral and maxillofacial region (e.g., the mouth, teeth, jaws and face). To be an oral surgeon is to be a member of an elite group of doctors whose extensive training and specialized skills enable him or her to work in two of healthcare's most demanding worlds: advanced dentistry and precision surgery.

How Does an Oral Surgeon Differ From a Dentist?

Oral Surgeon – Sew up the facts on dental or oral surgeons.

Think of an oral surgeon as a "super" dentist on steroids. After completing four years of undergraduate education and another four years of dental school, oral surgeons receive an additional four to seven years of hospital-based surgical training. During this residency, an oral surgeon will receive graduate training in general surgery, plastic surgery, medicine, anesthesia and pathology. Upon graduation and licensing, oral surgeons are permitted to treat patients in hospitals, outpatient facilities, surgical centers and private offices.

It's worth noting that the terms dental surgeon and maxillofacial surgeon are often used interchangeably with the designation oral surgeon. However, most practitioners of oral surgery generally refer to him- or herself as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

What Is a Board-Certified Oral Surgeon?

Board certification indicates that an oral surgeon ranks among the best of the best. Before beginning their practice, all oral surgeons must graduate from an accredited dental school, pass local state licensing and complete an ADA approved oral and maxillofacial surgeon residency program. In order to become board certified, a dental surgeon must also complete an intensive application and examination process with the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (ABOMS). The application process includes submitting written evidence of the oral surgeon's education and license, and letters of recommendation from board-certified oral surgeons

After the Board's application committee approves an applicant's credentials, the candidate for certification will be required to pass rigorous written and oral examinations. Upon successful completion of the testing the oral surgeon will be certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Diplomates are encouraged to stay at the top of their game through continuing education. Board-certified oral surgeons are retested every ten years to maintain their status as Diplomates. A final note, according to the ABOMS, "board eligibility" is not an officially recognized designation.

Procedures Provided by an Oral Surgeon

Oral surgeons are skilled in a variety of specialized hard and soft tissue surgical procedures. These range from relatively straight-forward extractions of impacted wisdom teeth to complex corrective surgeries for birth defects like cleft palate. A sampling of the procedures and conditions requiring the skills of an oral surgeon includes:

Sedation Dentistry -- Oral surgeons receive extensive training in providing safe and effective intravenous (IV) dental sedation, pain relief and general anesthesia services in their offices. Sedation dentistry is used for a variety of surgical procedures (e.g., tooth extraction, biopsies, etc.), and in the treatment of patients with dental anxiety issues.

Tooth Extraction -- The removal of damaged, non-restorable and impacted teeth is one of the most common procedures performed by a dental surgeon. Thanks to advances in surgical and anesthesia techniques, most dental extractions, including impacted wisdom teeth, are performed by oral surgeons on an outpatient basis.

Dental Implants -- Working closely with restorative dentists, oral surgeons are instrumental in the planning and placement of state-of-the-art dental implants used to replace missing teeth. This often involves reconstructing bone for implant placement and modifying gum tissue to give implants a more natural appearance.

Facial Injuries -- Oral surgeons frequently treat patients who have suffered facial trauma. This care is often provided in an emergency room setting. Repairing facial lacerations, setting fractured jaws and reconnecting severed nerves are fairly indicative of the type of procedures an oral surgeon will provide in these instances.

Pathologic Conditions -- Patients with cysts, tumors and severe infections of the oral and facial region will be treated by oral surgeons.

Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgery -- Jaw, facial bone and soft tissue problems resulting from previous trauma or the removal of pathology will often be corrected by an oral surgeon.

Sleep Apnea -- Oral surgeons are pioneers in the treatment of sleep apnea. Surgeries used to treat this disorder include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), somnoplasty, genioglossus advancement and tongue reduction.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome -- Patients suffering from severe facial, neck and jaw pain related to temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome (i.e., TMJ and TMD) may be referred to an oral surgeon for treatment.

Distraction Osteogenesis -- This minimally invasive procedure allows oral surgeons to treat patients whose severe jaw deformities cannot be helped by conventional surgical means. A distraction osteogenesis (DO) procedure uses an implanted "distractor" device to make incremental changes over time to the skeletal structure of the jaw.

Cleft Palate Surgery -- Oral surgeons are core members of the multidisciplinary treatment teams used to correct cleft palate, cleft lip and other birth defects of the face and jaw.

Orthognathic Surgery -- Oral surgeons will partner with orthodontists to improve a patient's bite or facial appearance by surgically realigning the upper and lower jaws into proper position. Typically an in-patient procedure, orthognathic surgery is used to correct jaw abnormalities caused by disease, genetics and injury.

Can You Recommend a Good Oral Surgeon?

Many people have "go to" family dentists. However, very few have standby oral surgeons. We can help ease the process in selecting an oral surgeon who's just right for you.

To find an oral surgeon, call us 24 hours a day at 1-866-970-0441.

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