Understanding Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Oral and maxillofacial (OM) surgery is a surgical specialty that focuses on disease, injuries and defects of the mouth and lower jaw.
Commonly performed surgical procedures that fall under the umbrella of oral and maxillofacial surgery include:
- Dental implants, the surgical placement of implants to replace missing teeth
- Wide local excision, the surgical removal of a tumor caused by mouth cancer
- Jaw surgery, a last-resort option for the treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders
Procedures and Surgeries
Dentoalveolar surgery addresses diseases of the teeth and supporting tissues. There are several types:
- Tooth extractions
OM surgeons can help diagnose the need for extraction and perform the procedure, whether the case is straightforward or complicated by impaction, disease or infection. Wisdom teeth (third molars). Wisdom teeth, the last teeth to develop and appear, are among those that may fail to fully break through the gum. That condition is known as impaction and requires special attention.
- Orthodontic Surgery
Patients are often referred to oral maxillofcial surgeons for an extraction or other procedure prior to orthodontic treatment.
- Pre-prosthetic Surgery
Our specialists help prepare the mouth for placement of partial or complete dentures, which results in a comfortable fit. In some cases excess bone must be removed or reshaped before the denture is inserted. Other possible procedures including smooth and reshaping bone, reducing the bone ridge, removing excess gum tissue and grafting skin or specialized gum tissue.
Dental implant placement was pioneered by OM surgeons more than 25 years ago. In many cases teeth can be extracted and implants with crowns placed in a single visit. In cases where no bone exists, OM surgeons are uniquely qualified to obtain and place bone grafts comfortably in the office setting. Sinus lift is a bone-grafting procedure performed when a patient’s upper jaw is inadequate to accommodate an implant.
Reconstructive surgery is required to remedy inadequate bone structure in the upper and/or lower jaw. This can result from injury or trauma, tumor surgery or long-term denture wear. OM surgeons use bone grafts from the patient’s bone, or from bone substitutes. Reconstructive surgery provides a solid foundation for dental rehabilitation, which can improve nutrition and speech. In some cases implants are used to anchor oral and facial prostheses.
Facial trauma includes fractures of the upper and lower jaws and the orbits surrounding the eyes as well as facial lacerations. Trauma also results from childhood accidents related to sports, falls and other causes.
Oro-facial pain can result from infection, TMJ, tumors and other causes. Our doctors will diagnose the problem and recommend the appropriate treatment.
Facial infections can cause pain and swelling in the face, neck or jaws. Depending on the diagnosis, surgical treatment involving draining the area and removing the source of the infection may be recommended.
Lesion Removal and Biopsy
Lesion removal and biopsy are options for patients with abnormal growths or tissue. Following an examination and X-rays the surgeon may remove a sample (biopsy) for laboratory examination or remove the entire growth.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint)
TMJ disorders are a common cause of facial pain and discomfort. TMJ is a ball-and-socket located at the intersection of the lower jaw and skull. It permits the lower jaw to move and function. Symptoms can include headache, earache and limited jaw movement. Some patients experience clicking or grating sounds when they open their mouth or within the jaws.
Oral pathology involves diagnosis and biopsies of lesions in the mouth and face, and are expert at diagnosing them. Examples include benign tumors and cancers, tooth-related growths, and others in the salivary glands and other areas. Unfortunately, oral cancers are becoming prevalent in patients in their 20s and 30s. They are often linked to the use of smokeless tobacco and to a rise in cases of HPV.
Oro-facial deformities can result from differences in growth between the upper and lower jaws. Symptoms may include problems chewing, swallowing, speaking or with TMJ. Psychological effects are also possible. Examples of procedures are corrective jaw surgery (usually performed in a hospital or surgery center under general anesthesia), surgery to correct various growth abnormalties, and reconstruction of congenital deformities like cleft lip and palate (performed with a team of other specialists).
Snoring/sleep apnea problems affect millions of people. The problem can be snoring or true apnea, which means breathing actually stops for a brief period. Obstructive sleep apneal can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, poor work performance and various cardiovascular problems. OM surgeons can diagnose and treat the condition, which, in some cases can only be corrected by surgery.