More than 10 million wisdom teeth are removed in the United States each year. This staggering number highlights the prevalence of impacted wisdom teeth and the need for proper removal. But who performs the procedure?

Wisdom teeth removal is one of the many procedures performed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons. These specialized dentists undergo 4 years of dental school and an additional 4-6 years in a surgical residency program. They are trained to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the mouth, jaw, face, and neck.

This brief guide will explore some of the common procedures that an oral and maxillofacial can do for you. Keep reading to learn more.

Wisdom Tooth Removal

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that emerge in the late teens to early twenties. While some wisdom teeth emerge properly aligned and functional, not everyone is so lucky. Sometimes emerging wisdom teeth become impacted against the other teeth.

This can cause pain, damage to adjacent teeth, and lead to infections. This is why dentists often recommend wisdom tooth extraction. But this is more complex than removing a standard tooth.

It often requires surgical maneuvers to cut through the gum tissue and bone to access the impacted tooth. General dentists can perform this procedure, but oral surgeons are better equipped to handle difficult impactions. This often stems from the difference in training a dentist vs. oral surgeon receives.

The additional training an oral surgeon gets allows them to use techniques like coronectomy. This is where the surgeon removes the crown but leaves the roots in place to avoid nerve injury.

Bone Grafting and Jawbone Preservation

Losing one or more teeth due to trauma, infection, or extraction can cause loss of bone in your jaw with time. This can affect your facial appearance, bite alignment, and the ability to receive dental implants in the future. The good news is that bone grafting or a jawbone preservation procedure can help prevent or reverse this process.

Bone grafting involves taking bone from another part of your body or a donor source and placing it into the area where you have lost bone. This can stimulate new bone growth and increase the volume and density of your jawbone. Bone grafting can be done at the same time as dental implant placement.

On the other hand, jawbone preservation involves placing bone graft material into the socket where the tooth was removed. The material acts as a scaffold for new bone formation. Jawbone preservation can help maintain the shape and height of your jawbone after tooth loss.

Dental Implants

Another common service that an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can offer is dental implants. These are usually inserted into the jawbone to serve as support for replacement teeth. They help restore your smile, function, and confidence if you have missing or damaged teeth.

An oral surgeon can perform dental implant surgery using local anesthesia or sedation. They make a small incision in your gum and drill a hole in your jawbone where the implant will be placed. They will then attach a metal post or abutment to the implant, which will serve as the connection point for the replacement tooth.

Depending on the type of implant, you may need to wait several months for the implant to fuse with your bone before the final restoration is attached.

Orthognathic Surgery

This is a type of jaw surgery that aims to correct the alignment problems of the upper and lower jaws. This includes jaws that are too large or too small, too forward or too far back, or asymmetrical.

Whatever the case, alignment issues can cause intense jaw pain. This can affect one’s appearance, speech, breathing, chewing, and even quality of sleep.

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon can perform surgery and reposition the jaws, making them more balanced and functional. The procedure involves cutting into the jaw bones and moving them into a new position.

Plates, screws, wires, or rubber bands may be used to stabilize bones during healing. That said, recovery may take six weeks to six months depending on how complex the surgery is.

Oral Pathology

This is a branch of dentistry that deals with diseases of the mouth, such as infections, ulcers, cysts, tumors, or cancer. Many of these conditions cause pain, swelling, bleeding, and difficulty swallowing. An oral surgeon can diagnose and treat oral pathology using methods like biopsies, medications, or surgery.

A biopsy involves removing a small sample of tissue from a suspicious lesion. The sample is then sent to the lab for analysis. This helps determine if the lesion is benign or malignant, and the right course of treatment.

For a benign lesion, such as a cyst, removing it is usually the way to go. A malignant lesion is more serious and may occur due to various reasons such as oral cancer. Treatment options may include surgery to remove the tumor and any other affected lymph nodes or other structures.

The surgeon may also work with other specialists to ensure optimal recovery results. These include oncologists and radiation therapists.

Dental Extractions

Besides wisdom teeth, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can also extract other teeth that are damaged, decayed, or infected. Sometimes, a tooth may be too broken or diseased to be saved by a root canal or a filling, and it may need to be removed to prevent further problems.

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon can perform dental extractions using local anesthesia or sedation. They will loosen the tooth from its socket using a special instrument called an elevator, and then pull it out using forceps. They will then place a gauze pad over the extraction site to stop the bleeding and promote clotting.

Schedule an Appointment With an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

As you can see, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can do much more than a general dentist. They can treat a wide range of conditions affecting the mouth, jaws, face, and neck, as well as perform facial cosmetic surgery to improve your appearance and self-confidence.

If you have any questions or concerns about your oral and maxillofacial health, the team at Jenkins, Morrow & Gayheart is ready to help. We offer a wide range of dental care services while prioritizing individualized compassionate attention.

Schedule an appointment today with us to discuss your oral health concerns!