If you have ever been referred to an oral surgeon, you may have been intimidated by this specialties’ name. Surgery sounds scary, after all.
However, there is nothing to fear. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is simply one of twelve dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. Their years of extra training in oral surgery are what separates them from their peers.
Keep reading to learn more about this specialty and common oral surgery procedures.
Table of Contents
How Are Oral Surgeons Different From Other Dentists?
While there are many similarities between oral surgeons and general dentists, there are several key differences. For one, an oral surgeon supplements the learning they share with general dentists with many hours of continuing education in the oral surgery field and a minimum of four additional years of schooling.
Oral surgeons are specialists who have chosen to focus on oral and maxillofacial surgery. Dentists, on the other hand, have a big picture focus on your overall oral health. As a result, dentists and oral surgeons will often work hand-in-hand to diagnose and treat their patients.
Here are the most common oral surgery procedures that are referred out to oral surgeons.
1. Bone Regeneration
The standard reason for bone regeneration is for implant placement.
Here’s why. The roots of your teeth and the nerves surrounding them dictate where blood and nutrients flow. When teeth are missing, that essential flow has stopped.
It’s like the nerve endings are saying, “no one lives here anymore; shut it down.” This causes the bone levels to decrease. The more time that passes, the more the bone will deteriorate.
After a while, significant bone grafting will be needed to rebuild the bone enough to fit an implant. Oral surgeons, like those at implantsnorthwest.com, can do both bone grafting and implant placement surgery, sometimes at the same appointment.
2. Specialized Extractions
The root of your tooth is intertwined with many nerve endings. These nerves tell you how hard to bite and if something is hot, cold, or sharp. In addition, the nerve endings in your mouth are all interconnected with those throughout your jaw and face.
This turns some tooth extractions into very delicate operations that are better left to specialists. For example, wisdom teeth are often nestled in a tangled web of nerves; so these extractions are complicated and exclusively performed by an oral surgeon.
Another example is the extraction of an impacted tooth, which is horizontal instead of vertical. The unique placement of the tooth requires gum surgery that a general dentist is not equipped to do.
3. Oral Cancer Diagnosis and Surgery
Regular visits to your dentist will help you quickly diagnose cancers in your mouth. Most check-up appointments will feature an oral cancer screening, and if it isn’t offered as a part of your routine visit, you can ask to have it included. If your dentist suspects oral cancer, they will likely send you to an oral surgeon to take a biopsy.
If you need oral surgery as a result of the lab test, your oral surgeon will perform this surgery. Afterward, they will also be able to make prosthetics to replace portions of your face or jaw, if necessary.
4. Oral and Facial Corrective Surgery
Oral surgeons are experts in treating facial trauma, jaw injuries, and congenital cranial and maxillofacial malformities. If you break your jaw or are in an accident and injure your face, you will often see an oral surgeon.
Cleft lip and palate are other disorders that an oral surgeon would treat because of their expertise in rebuilding or replacing bone and soft tissue.
5. Dental Implant Placement
There are several dental specialties, in addition to general dentists, that can do implant placements. However, there are specific scenarios when an oral surgeon is the best one for the job.
For example, if you have been missing teeth for a long time, you will also be missing a lot of bone and need significant grafting before implant placement. Another scenario is if you are missing a full set of teeth. In both situations, it is recommended that you visit an oral surgeon.
This is because an oral surgeon will be able to do both the grafting and the implant surgery. In addition, since the same doctor will be performing both procedures, they will better understand your mouth’s needs. This also ends up saving time.
Does Oral Surgery Hurt?
No, oral and tooth surgery will never hurt. While you may feel some tenderness afterward, your doctor will ensure that your procedure is painless. Also, since long or complicated procedures will need more than local anesthetic to maintain your comfort, oral surgeons can administer anesthesia, and many have an anesthesiologist on staff.
After your surgery, your doctor will recommend a pain management program that is right for you. This often includes over-the-counter pain relief taken at regular intervals and ice packs. If you had oral surgery and are concerned about pain, speak with your doctor.
How to Find an Oral Surgeon
If you already have a trusted general dentist, this is an excellent place to start. They will have recommendations for specialists that they would trust with their own families. However, if you don’t have a dentist, you can still find a great oral surgeon.
In this case, scour the internet for reviews so that you can get a good idea of their bedside manner and customer service. These are the two criteria that set good surgeons apart from great ones.
Now that you’re ready to find an oral surgeon, perhaps you want to educate yourself on other health topics. If so, keep browsing for more informative reads.