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Oral Surgeons

Oral surgeons are know as maxillofacial surgeons.

Oral Surgeons

Oral surgeons, also known as maxillofacial surgeons, care for and perform surgery on patients with problem wisdom teeth, facial pain and misaligned jaws, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS).

How an Oral Surgeon is Different From a Dentist

Oral surgery is a specialty area of dentistry. All oral surgeons are dentists who, after completion of a four-year dental school degree, have gone on to complete a surgical residency program in a hospital-based setting. Board certification is available and state licensing is required for practicing maxillofacial surgeons. Oral surgeons are trained in the administration of anesthetics and may operate on patients whereas a dentist is not trained or licensed to so. The specialty work of an oral surgeon may be pursued in a career through private practice, a hospital, a teaching institution, the military or a combination of those.

Types of Surgeries Performed

An oral surgeon most commonly treats patients who suffer from facial injury through accidents; oral cancer; tumors and cysts of the jaw; and those in need of dental implants or cosmetic facial surgery. Oral surgeons are trained to perform the following procedures:

  • Reconstructive jaw surgery
  • Dental extractions and implants of single and multiple teeth or of all teeth
  • Diagnosis and treatment of potentially life-threatening oral, jaw, head or neck infections
  • Repair of traumatic injury to the face, jaw, mouth or teeth
  • Surgical correction of oral or facial deformities

The State University of New York Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine reports that oral surgeons also perform surgeries to aid in the treatment of sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorders (TMJDs), which cause pain in the jaw joints.

Education and Training Required

Academic dental and medical institutions around the United States offer oral surgery residencies ranging from four to seven years in length. Many of these programs also offer extern- or internships. Some residency program curriculums, such as that at Columbia University in New York, award graduates a dual oral surgery residency completion as well as an M.D. degree. However, each program should be researched, as not all oral surgery residency programs offer an M.D. degree. During the years of residency, doctors are trained in internal medicine; general surgery; anesthesiology; medicine of the ear, nose and throat; emergency medicine; and plastic surgery. Residents are also exposed to pathology, laboratory medicine and pharmacology. Some programs even send their residents abroad for annual rotations to practice in less-developed countries where problems such as cleft lip and palate are more common. Residents are typically provided an annual salary along with the expectation of tuition fees.

Oral surgery extern- and internships are generally shorter than residencies. They may take place before or after residency, bridging the time between residency and a medical career. Extern- and internships may involve working side-by-side with a full practicing oral surgeon beyond the dental school curriculum, as well as attending oral and maxillofacial surgery lectures, seminars and conferences.

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