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What is an Oral Surgeon?

Oral Surgeons are also referred to as Maxillofacial Surgeons. These are dentists who have spent 4-6 additional years in training medicine, anesthesia and surgery of the mouth. Oral and Maxillofacial surgery specialize in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of defects, diseases and injuries that involve the teeth, gums, jaws, mouth, neck and head. Oral Surgeon’s perform many procedures to help improve the look of your smile, eliminate discomfort, improve and maintain the health of your teeth and much more. Please read below to learn more about these procedures:

Bone Grafting:

Over time, the jawbone related to a missing tooth deteriorates. Because of this, poor quantity and quality of the bone is left which limits the chance for dental implants. However, bone grafting gives us the ability to grow the needed bone for dental implants of the proper size, as well as restoring esthetic appearance and functionality. The bone used to do this is extracted in some cases from a tissue bank and other cases taken from the patients’ hip, tibia (below the knee) or jaw.

Cleft Lip and Palate:

In the early stages of pregnancy, different areas of the face develop in solitude and then join together, including the lips and both sides of the roof of the mouth. In some cases, parts do not properly join, and results in what is referred to as a cleft. This varies from child to child. A cleft lip occurs when this occurs in the upper lip when there is an opening between the lip between the mouth and the nose. The cleft palate occurs in the roof of the mouth when there is an opening from the mouth to the nose. The palate aids in many procedures such as talking, eating and breathing. Oral surgeons are able to close the hole or gap between the nose and the roof of the mouth, reconnect the muscles that aid in the functioning of the palate and size the palate so that it works properly.

Dental Implants:

The purpose of dental implants are to provide a base for replacement teeth which feel, look and function like natural teeth do. Dental implants operate as root substitutes of the tooth. These implants are metal anchors surgically planted in the jaw bone in the place of the missing teeth. These tiny titanium posts are attached to the implant which extends beyond the gums. Generally these procedure works in two phases. The first three to six months after the artificial roots are implanted and work to bond with the jawbone. Temporary dentures are worn until the second phase begins. Your Surgeon will take an impression, and eventually start making your new teeth that will attach to the implants.

Facial Trauma:

Injuries to the face encompass high amounts of emotional and physical trauma to patients.  Typical injuries include: fractured facial bones (nose, cheek or eye socket), fractured jaws (upper and lower jaw), avulsed (knocked out) teeth, intra oral lacerations and facial lacerations. To treat these injuries, procedures include special hands on experience that will influence the patient’s long term function and appearance.

Oral Pathology:

The pink and smooth layer that covers the inside of your mouth is a special type of skin called mucosa. Changes in the appearance of the inside of the mouth could be a warning sign to visit an oral surgeon. These symptoms can run from very mild to severely dangerous. Oral cancer is the most serious case. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should consult a surgeon: whitish or reddish patches in the mouth, problems chewing and swallowing, thickening or a lump on the lining of the skin inside the mouth, a sore that bleeds easily and fails to heal or chronic sore throat. Symptoms can be detected on the tongue, teeth, lips, palate, gum tissue, face and neck. To prevent and detect early cases of pathology, oral surgeons recommend performing a monthly self-examination.

Orthognathic Surgery:

When jaws don’t meet correctly and/or teeth do not appear the fit the jaw, orthognathic surgery is needed. If you are experiencing the following, you should contact your orthodontist: trouble biting, chewing or swallowing, TMJ (Temporo - Mandibular Joint) pain, speech problems, breathing problems or protruding jaw. Generally, before treatment begins, consultations periods exist for doctors and patients to discuss the best procedure fit for that particular symptom. Dentists use comprehensive facial x-rays and video stills, where the doctor will give you an idea of how your smile will look after the surgery.

Sleep Apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder that affects sleeping patterns due to low oxygen levels. When OSA occurs, the tongue is suctioned back against the throat which blocks the air flow through the upper airway. When the brain’s oxygen level is low enough, the sleeper will partially wake up, the throat obstruction clears and the air flow stars again. This usually is accompanied with a loud gasp. There are many different degrees of sleep apnea, each one requiring is own unique treatment method. These treatments vary from skull x-rays to laser surgery.

TMJ() Joint Disorder:

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. The TMJ disorders are a group of problems relating to the jaw joint. If you are experiencing symptoms such as a clicking sound or a pain in your jaw, you may be diagnosed with TMJ. Luckily, today these problems are much easier to treat than they were in the past. It is important to diagnose and treat these symptoms as early as possible since they can lead to more serious conditions. There are many reasons for the development of TMJ. Grinding or clenching your teeth, tightening your jaw muscles, putting stress on your TM joint even disease or injury may have damaged the jaw joint. Whatever the reason may be, results include pain, a misaligned bite, clicking noise or trouble opening your mouth wide. Various treatment methods exist that your doctor can use to improve the function of your jaw. Often treatment works best with a joint approach of professional care with self-care.

Wisdom Teeth:

By age eighteen, the average adult has thirty two teeth. Sixteen teeth on the bottom and sixteen on the top. Generally, the average mouth grows to comfortably hold only twenty eight teeth. These four extra teeth that are referred to as the wisdom teeth can be extremely painful; that is why so many people have these removed. The last teeth to erupt are the wisdom teeth. If these teeth grow in properly, healthy gum tissue and alignment is straight, most likely wisdom teeth will not have to be removed. If the wisdom teeth grow in impacted, only partially erupt, or are poorly positioned in some other way, they can cause not only pain, but infections. Oral surgeons have the ability to take an oral examination and x-ray of the mouth and predict whether the teeth will cause future problems and should come out. Proper anesthesia is used when surgery is performed depending on the positioning of the teeth.