What is Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery?
The American Dental Association (ADA) defines oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS) as a dental specialty involved in the diagnosis, surgical and treatment of defects, injuries and diseases of both the functional and aesthetic aspects of the tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region.
It is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by ADA which include Dental Public Health, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Endodontics, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics. Each specialty is concerned with specific areas of Dentistry where advanced knowledge and skills are needed to maintain and restore oral health.
What is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?
Called oral and maxillofacial surgeon or simply oral surgeon, this specialist is responsible for treating the entire craniomaxillofacial complex or the anatomical part of the mouth, jaws, face, and skull, and other associated structures.
ADA has adopted the dental specialty since October 1990. In countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and other parts of Europe, OMS is recognized both as a dental and medical specialty which requires a dual degree in medicine and dentistry.
How can I become an Oral Surgeon?
Becoming an oral surgeon requires extensive education and training, plus surgical expertise. The education and training one must undergo to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon include a pre-medical or dental education, dental school, and additional training and residency requirements.
- Dental schools usually require at least two years of college-level predental education. If you are aiming to enter dental school, it is recommended to take a pre-dental education that emphasizes coursework in science such as biology or chemistry.
- Dental school involves a four-year curriculum of basic dental training to earn the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree.
- After the completion of dental school, a minimum of four years in a hospital-based surgical residency program is needed to be an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
The average years of schooling towards becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon are at 12 to 14 years.
What does an oral surgeon do?
As an oral surgeon, you are expected to perform surgeries for some conditions that require it. Among the situations that needed oral surgery include:
- Impacted teeth. An impacted tooth usually involves the wisdom teeth or the third molars and last set of teeth. An impacted wisdom tooth can lead to swelling, pain, and infection of the gum tissue around the tooth. If left untreated, this can also result in permanent damage to the nearby teeth, and affect the gums and bones.
- Tooth loss. Oral surgeons are also involved in solving your problem with a missing tooth. Through dental implants, they can resolve tooth loss. Dental implants are substitutes of the tooth root and are surgically anchored in place in the jawbone. They stabilize the artificial tooth attached.
- Jaw-related problems. These problems may be an unequal jaw growth, irregularities of the jaws to improve dental fit, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
- Other conditions. Through oral surgery, fractured jaws and broken facial bones can be repaired. Lesion removal and biopsy are also possible, as well as, cleft lip and cleft palate repair. Oral surgery can also treat facial infections and snore or sleep apnea.