Full Scope

Full Scope

What are some reasons to visit an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?

  • To replace a missing tooth with a dental implant.
  • Have oral surgical procedures such as wisdom tooth surgery performed in the office under sedation or general anesthesia
  • To have impacted canine teeth surgically exposed
  • To have jaw or facial bone trauma injuries diagnosed and treated
  • Have a jaw, oral, or facial cyst or tumor diagnosed, and treated.
  • Have your jaw surgically aligned (orthognathic surgery)
  • Have your jaw joint(s) repaired with TMJ surgery.
  • Have facial and jaw reconstruction following cancer surgery.
  • Have a consultation to determine whether you are a candidate botox or other injectable cosmetics

Maxillofacial surgery is a specialization of dentistry that focuses on problems around the mouth, jaw, and neck. Doctors who decide to pursue this specialty as a career attend dental school and then an additional residency program. A surgeon may remove severely impacted wisdom teeth, address facial pain, or fix overbites and jaw deformities. Typically, training for this specialty includes reconstructive surgery, so that the surgeon can rebuild areas of the face that are in need of it.

Because of the important nerves and blood vessels that run through the face and neck, and rigorous general anesthesia training, your oral and maxillofacial surgeon should be board certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

People who can benefit from orthognathic surgery (surgical jaw alignment) include those with an improper bite, or jaws that are positioned incorrectly. Jaw growth is a gradual process and in some instances, the upper and lower jaws may grow at different rates. In other patients, improper jaw alignment may result from previous injury, such as a jaw fracture.

Examples of jaw alignment problems are overbite (protruding upper jaw), underbite (protruding lower jaw), cross bites, and open bite. Misalignment of the jaws can cause long-term oral health, and your facial appearance, difficulty in chewing, biting or swallowing, speech problems, chronic jaw or TMJ pain and breathing problems

Orthodontics alone can correct bite problems when only the teeth are involved. Orthognathic surgery may be required for the jaws when repositioning of the upper jaw and/or the lower jaw is necessary for the teeth to match up. Often these procedures are done in conjunction with each other. This not only improves facial appearance, but also ensures that teeth meet correctly and function properly. A dentist or orthodontist may refer a patient for maxillofacial surgery if an issue in the mouth is too difficult to correct with orthodontics or basic dental procedures alone.

After a severe accident, a patient may be referred to oral and maxillofacial if he or she has suffered severe facial injuries. Surgery can help to correct cosmetic and other damages to the face as a result of the accident. In addition to cleaning up the physical appearance of a damaged face, the surgeon can address nerve damage and other issues that may cause pain for the patient. Especially if the patient is treated quickly, the long term impacts of accident damage can be greatly reduced.

Teeth implants are changing the way people live. They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. Patients with teeth implants can smile with confidence.

An impacted tooth simply means that it is “stuck” and can not erupt into function. Patients frequently develop problems with impacted third molar (wisdom) teeth. These teeth get “stuck” in the back of the jaw and can develop painful infections among a host of other problems (see “Impacted wisdom teeth” under Procedures). Since there is rarely a functional need for wisdom teeth, they are usually extracted if they develop problems. The maxillary cuspid (upper eye tooth) is the second most common tooth to become impacted. The cuspid tooth is a critical tooth in the dental arch and plays an important role in your “bite.” The cuspid teeth are very strong biting teeth which have the longest roots of any human teeth. They are designed to be the first teeth that touch when your jaws close together so they guide the rest of the teeth into the proper bite.

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer (also called mouth cancer). The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer (also called mouth cancer). The following can be signs of how to detect the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.

For how to detect oral cancer, we recommend performing an oral self-examination monthly and remember that your mouth is one of your body's most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help

If a patient is diagnosed with cancer or tumors on the region of the face, surgery may play a role in the patient's treatment. In addition to working with a cancer specialist, the patient can work with a surgeon to remove the damaged tissue and rebuild the face so that the patient is not subject to embarrassment as a result of strange physical appearance. Surgeons who choose to specialize on work with cancer patients may choose to pursue additional training so that they can offer the best services possible.

For people with birth defects and deformities, a referral for maxillofacial surgery can be life changing. Some surgeons specialize in the treatment of cleft lips and palates and other disfiguring deformities, sometimes even volunteering their skills in low income communities. Because the face is such a visible and important part of a person, many people with deformities feel awkward in society. Corrective surgery can change this, giving the patient more confidence in his or her daily life.

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