What is Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery?
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of a broad range of disorders affecting the facial complex and skeleton, including the jaws and oral cavity.
Contemporary training in both medicine and dentistry enables oral & maxillofacial surgeons to treat conditions requiring expertise in both fields. These include a range of common oral surgical problems (eg. impacted teeth, dental implants), jaw and congenital facial disproportion, facial trauma, oral cancer, salivary gland disease, temporomandibular joint disorders, and various benign pathologies (eg. cysts and tumours of the jaws).
Following the acquisition of dental and medical degrees, prospective trainees must complete basic general surgical training as residents and then apply to be selected into one one of the six Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery training Centres. Specialty training involves four years with an examination in the first year and the final examination in the fourth year. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery training, together with a compulsory research component and the final Fellowship qualification, are recognized by both the Australian Medical Council and the Australian Dental Council. The training, accreditation and examination requirements are administered by the Board of Studies in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery within the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons.
Patients are referred to an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon by both general and specialist dental and medical practitioners. In many instances, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons work in collaboration with other specialists such as orthodontists, ear nose and throat surgeons, plastic and reconstructive surgeons and oncologists as part of multidisciplinary teams to optimise the treatment of major conditions and diseases of the mouth, faces and jaws.
An overview of the main sub-specialist areas of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is outlined on this website.
What Do Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Do?
The short answer is that they do most of the treatments and surgeries listed above. A specialist in this type of dentistry has to do a lot more emergency work than others. Many times, a patient suffers a car accident or athletic injury that requires immediate attention. In those instances, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon must treat people in crisis situations.
The job has many other requirements beyond crisis support, though. This kind of specialist must know and treat a range of injuries and illnesses across four major parts of the body: the neck, face, jaw, and mouth. The most frequent surgery is tooth extraction, especially when a person suffers from impacted wisdom teeth. Sometimes, this surgery isn’t an emergency decision but a proactive one to prevent later tooth problems.
Some conditions may require this sort of surgery. People with cleft palates and lips can receive treatment to correct the problem. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon will alter the facial structure to fix the physical issue. It’s considered a medical rather than cosmetic surgery, though.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons must know how to treat hard and soft tissue issues. A professional must work on sensitive areas like the gums and tough structures like the jawbone and parts of the neck. It’s a demanding job, as the surgeon must understand all dentistry, general medicine, and many forms of surgery.