What is an Oral Surgeon?

Posted by

An Oral Surgeon working with a patient

An Oral Surgeon (also called a Maxillofacial Surgeon) is a surgeon with expertise in the treatment of a wide range of diseases, defects and injuries. Their area of specialty includes the mouth, jaws, neck, head and face.

These specialists undergo many years of training in higher education. After the completion of their undergraduate studies they will complete 4 years of dental school. In addition to their dental schooling they will complete another 4 to 6 years of residency training after which they must take an examination to become Board Certified.

Oral surgeons have an extremely diverse skill set. Their field of practice has a broad array of specialties.

The types of maladies that an Oral Surgeon can treat include:

Tooth Extraction (including highly complex extractions):

Eooth Extraction

Gum disease (periodontal disease) is a very common cause for tooth extraction. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 47% of the adult population in the United States has some form of gum disease. This number jumps to 64% in the adult population that is over the age of 65. As a result of advanced forms of gum disease many of those afflicted with gum disease will have to have teeth removed.

In other cases, there is some form of blunt force trauma which causes so much damage to the teeth, gums and the surrounding bone structure that tooth extraction is required.

It is very common for wisdom teeth to be extracted to allow for more room for the surrounding teeth.

An Oral Surgeon may remove teeth because they are too big. Tooth removal may be performed when there are too many teeth in a person’s mouth.

Teeth may also need to be removed to facilitate a successful outcome for orthodontic treatment.

Bone Fusion for implants and facial prostheses:

Dental Implants

Dental Implants are a great option for people that need replacement teeth. Dentures are often a poor fit and are prone to becoming dislodged. Dental Implants have the appearance and the feel of real teeth.

Placing tooth implants is a science and a craft. As such, they require the attention of a Dental Surgeon to be successfully placed.

In cases where a person’s bone structure is malformed or traumatized to the point that they are a detriment to a person’s appearance and ability to function facial prosthetics are constructed and placed by an Oral Surgeon.

Cosmetic Surgery:

Facial Plastic Surgery

Maxillofacial Surgeons are sought out for cosmetic surgeries to improve the aesthetic appearance of the face. Some common facial cosmetic surgeries are rhinoplasties (nose augmentation), forehead lifts,  face lifts, and eyelid surgeries.

Corrective Jaw Surgery:

Robotic Tongue Surgery

Corrective Jaw Surgery (also called orthognathic surgery) is used to amend minor and significant maladies that may exist in the jawline and intraoral cavity.

Patients may improve their looks with this surgery. Many patients also experience a better ability to bite, talk, inhale and exhale as a result of this surgery.

Tumor removal (both benign and cancerous):

Oral Surgeons perform procedures that remove benign tumors and oropharyngeal cancers from the oral cavity.

Reconstruction of the lips:

Reconstruction of the soft tissue of the lips is another specialty of Oral Surgeons. Lips may be damaged from physical injury to such an extent that they require surgical intervention in order to look normal and function appropriately.

Additionally, some individuals are born with deformities to their lips. Oral Surgery has been used to successfully cure such maladies as cleft lip in babies and very young children.

According to Operation Smile, a child is born with a cleft lip every 3 minutes. Operation Smile is an organization that has performed hundreds of thousands of surgeries around the world since 1982. Free cleft lip and palate surgery is a specialty of Operation Smile.

Treatment for TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder):

TMJ with text and white border

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a syndrome that describes pain and limited function of the jaw muscles.

Oral Surgeons correct TMJ syndrome through arthroscopy and open joint repair restructuring in patients that present with the most serious cases.

Bite correction (through surgery):

Bite corrections are performed for both the upper (maxillary) jaw, the lower (mandibular) jaw and the chin.

A bite correction for the upper jaw is called a maxillary osteotomy. Patients that undergo this procedure may have an open bite, a crossbite, an excessive amount of their teeth visible, too little of their teeth visible or a receded upper jaw.

A bite correction for the lower jaw is called a mandibular osteotomy. The reasons for performing surgery on the lower jaw mirror the reasons that surgery is performed for the upper jaw. A patient may present with issues in their upper and lower jaw. They may also present with an issue in only one of the two jaw components. A common reason for lower jaw surgery is a receded lower jaw.

Chin Surgery is often seen in cases where there is a receded lower jaw. Genioplasty surgery corrects the miniscule appearance of the chin in these cases by cutting the chin bone and affixing it to a more ideal position.

Oral Surgery for people that have braces:

Sometimes braces are not enough to correct a person’s bite. In many cases the jaw must be realigned. A person’s bite may be in such need of correction that surgical intervention is needed to structure it properly.

For people that have a diastema (a gap in their teeth) a common cause for the involvement of an Oral Surgeon is to remove an oversized labial frenum.

The correction of bone fractures to any part of the head and face:

Maxillofacial Surgeons have expertise in repairing broken bones in the face, on the head and in the neck.

Motor vehicle crashes, simple assaults, assaults with dangerous weapons and falls account for the majority of facial fractures. In the case of facial fractures there are very likely going to be other serious injuries as well. Some of these injuries may not be immediately evident. A full physical evaluation will be done to determine if there are any more serious injuries that should require medical intervention first.

Soft tissue surgeries:

Before and after pictures of a child with a cleft palate

Oral Surgeons provide a wide range of soft tissue procedures. Some of these procedures include palatal grafts, frenectomy operations, gingivoplasty and gingivectomy procedures.

This is a brief overview of some of the many skills that Oral Surgeons have in their professional toolkit. These surgeons improve the lives of their patients. Cosmetic surgeries improve the physical appearance of their clients. Surgeries that repair the bone and tissue structure not only improve the quality of life of their clients but also save lives.

Oral Surgeons possess an extremely high level of education and bring invaluable expertise to the field of medicine. The benefits of their skills and talents will continue to make life better for people around the world.


This is a link to the ORA-BAND blog