Oral surgery refers to any medical procedure performed on the mouth with specific regard to the teeth, jaw, and/or gums. Depending on the type of procedure being performed, it may be done by your general dentist in their office (a tooth extraction, for example), or by an oral surgeon in a hospital or clinic setting (such as the removal of wisdom teeth or dental implants, depending on the type of implant and the technique being used).
Oral surgery may be delivered in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Units. These units deal with issues involving the jaw and facial area. Oral-Maxillofacial Surgeons are specialists in oral issues, which involve the mouth, and maxillofacial issues, those which involve the jaw and face. The qualification requirements for such a specialist include a dual qualification in dentistry and medicine, as an Oral-Maxillofacial Surgeon must be able to treat conditions which require knowledge and expertise in each field. These conditions include but are not limited to diseases of the salivary glands, cancers of the head and neck, issues affecting the oral mucosa including infections and ulcers. Some Oral-Maxillofacial Surgeons choose to concentrate on one of these areas in order to become a sub-specialist in the broader field. You may be seen by an Oral Surgeon or an Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon depending on the nature of your referral, and what hospital you are attending.
Oral surgery performed in a dental practice is quite common and requires only a local anaesthetic. Many people don’t realise that simply having a tooth extracted is a form of oral surgery. There is no need to let the term frighten you or make you feel apprehensive.
A dentist will normally refer patients to an oral surgeon for issues such as treatment of wisdom teeth, complex extractions, correction of congenital growth defects or if you have a complicated medical history. An oral surgeon is trained and skilled in the following procedures and many others.
Types of treatment
- Removal of impacted and/or diseased teeth
- Placement of dental implants
- Correcting facial trauma to the jaw/mouth area
- Evaluation and treatment of pathologic conditions such as cysts/tumors of the mouth or face, severe oral infections, etc.
- Diagnosing and treating facial pain caused by temporomandibular joint issues or other types of joint problems
- Performing cosmetic or reconstructive surgery involving facial bone, the jaw, or the soft tissue of the face which may result from the removal of tumors or cysts, or from facial trauma
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- Performing Orthognathic (Corrective Jaw) surgery to improve issues with breathing, chewing, or talking
- Undertaking procedures with general anaesthesia in combination with a trained anaesthetist
- Prescribing the necessary medications following a procedure including pain management medications, antibiotics, etc.
There are other services an oral surgeon may perform, and your dentist will be able to advise, inform, and refer you should any procedure be deemed necessary.
Third molars – these are commonly known as wisdom teeth and often cause problems requiring extraction
Impacted teeth – these are teeth that, for one reason or another, cannot fully erupt into the mouth – they are sometimes removed
Sedation – a medication or gas designed to help anxious patients during procedures, sometimes used for more complex procedures
Specialist – someone who is on the General Dental Council specialist list for oral surgery
Other sources of information
There are lots of groups and organisations concerned with oral surgery. Explore some of them here, many have useful information for patients, parents and carers.