While it might be common knowledge when and why to visit a general practitioner or a dentist, what prompts a patient to visit an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS)?
As experts in face, mouth and jaw surgery, OMSs treat a range of conditions, including:
- Many people have their wisdom teeth removed by an OMS.
- Dental implants are placed by an OMS to replace damaged or missing teeth.
- OMSs are often involved in the treatment of facial injury and trauma.
If a condition pertains to oral health or the overall wellness of the head, neck, jaw or face, it may be wise to consult an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Patients should visit surgical professionals – not their family dentist – for these more complex procedures.
Why OMS? What Does OMS Mean?
An OMS goes through dental school and then spends an minimum of four to six additional years in a hospital-based surgical residency program. Many also become board-certified, seek further degrees or complete fellowships for a subspecialty.
While impacted wisdom teeth are commonly extracted, it also may be necessary to remove teeth that are crowded, diseased beyond restoration or supernumerary (extra teeth). OMSs are the obvious choice for patients in need of surgical tooth extractions, whether simple or complicated by impaction.
Wisdom Teeth Maintenance
Though many patients opt to have their wisdom teeth removed, it is not always necessary. However, patients who choose to keep their wisdom teeth should consult an OMS regularly about maintenance. Each patient and case is unique, but dental professionals generally recommend the removal of wisdom teeth if there are signs of periodontal disease, infection, cavities, damage to neighboring teeth and/or cysts or tumors.
If a patient’s teeth show none of these signs, have completely erupted from the gums, are functional, painless and free of cavities and disease, they may not require removal. It is key to continue scheduling dental checkups at least annually to track the growth of wisdom teeth, and an OMS can help develop a plan for proper care.
Orthodontic or Preprosthetic Surgery
A patient may be referred to an OMS for a surgical procedure before orthodontics or being fitted for prosthetics. In these cases, the OMS prepares the mouth for what comes next. In the case of orthodontic surgery, that may mean the removal of over-retained baby teeth or the exposure of unerupted teeth. Before fitting for prosthetics, an OMS might remove excess bone and gum tissue or smooth and recontour the bone ridge dentures rest on.
As pioneers of the dental implant procedure, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are leaders in the innovative techniques that deliver a natural-looking solution for missing or damaged teeth. Their extensive surgical training allows OMSs to successfully place dental implants in most patients, even if they have been deemed as “high risk.”
Corrective Jaw Surgery
Problems chewing, swallowing or speaking could be evidence of differences in skeletal growth between the upper and lower jaws. Corrective jaw – or orthognathic – surgery can correct a range of major and minor dental and skeletal irregularities, realigning teeth and improving basic functions such as chewing and breathing.
Consult an OMS
These are simply some of the common reasons a patient may need oral or maxillofacial surgery. Facial cosmetic surgery, facial infections or injuries, oral pathology, snoring/obstructive sleep apnea and other general oral health conditions warrant consulting an OMS.