An oral surgeon is a type of dentist who specializes in problems affecting both the hard and soft tissues of the face, mouth, and jaw. Also known as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, he or she must first graduate from dental school and then complete an additional four years of residency in a hospital. During the residency program, oral surgeons are trained in emergency medicine, general surgery, and anesthesiology, and they are the only dentists qualified to give patients general anesthesia. Depending on the educational path they choose, some also receive a medical degree or a Ph.D. at the end of their training. Altogether, the average oral surgeon receives between 12 and 14 years of post-graduate education.
Common Reasons For Referral
Patients may be referred to an oral surgeon for a variety of reasons. While many regular dentists routinely perform simple extractions, they may refer patients to an oral surgeon for more complex procedures like extractions of impacted teeth. They may also perform dental implants to replace missing teeth. In addition, patients who have birth defects like a misaligned jaw or trauma from an accident may be referred for surgical correction of the problem. Oral surgeons may also treat patients who have obstructive sleep disorder (sleep apnea), temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome, or tumors in the mouth and jaw. The following are detailed descriptions of two common procedures performed by one idaho oral surgery practice.
An impacted tooth can be any tooth that fails to emerge completely. Instead, it gets stuck in the bone or gum tissue. This can happen for several reasons, including overcrowded teeth in the area where the tooth needs to come in and a jaw that is too small to accommodate a full set of teeth. Wisdom teeth are the most likely to become impacted, followed by the upper maxillary cuspids, also known as canine teeth. These teeth often remain stuck in the bone above the roots of surrounding teeth or are pushed out in front of the tooth line.
An oral surgeon usually treats impacted wisdom teeth by extracting them since patients can function normally without them. The upper cuspids pose a different problem because they are important for biting and play a role in determining the patient’s tooth and jaw alignment. When oral surgeons treat impacted canines in a young patient, they are often able to create space and a pathway for the tooth to erupt naturally. However, in older teens and adults, the teeth may need to be extracted and replaced with dental implants.
Oral surgeons can also help patients who suffer from a facial deformity due to a birth defect or trauma. One example is a congenital birth defect in which the two sides of the upper lip are not fully joined. Not only is this a cosmetic problem, it affects an infant’s ability to suck and, eventually, to make certain speech sounds. It can also impair breathing if the child has a small chin or the cleft includes the nostrils. The doctors at an idaho oral surgery practice treat this problem when a baby is around ten weeks old. Through cleft lip surgery, they close the separation to create a normal and functional mouth shape.