What Does an Oral Surgeon Do?
The simple answer is that an oral surgeon treats problems with the mouth, face, jaws and skull. However, that short answer overlooks many of the benefits offered by oral surgeons. There’s actually a lot more to it.
The full title of this type of medical practitioner is oral and maxillofacial surgeon. While it is considered a specialty of dentistry, it requires a far more extensive education to qualify for this specialty. After four years of undergraduate study, an individual must attend four more years of dental school and then four to six years of residency. In a residency, the doctor works in a hospital or medical center, administering the type of dental care he is specializing in. Since most residencies pay very little, the future oral surgeon must be highly motivated to reach his goal.
Treatments Performed by an Oral Surgeon
When it comes to working with the soft and hard tissues of the mouth, face and head, there’s little an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can’t do. All the bones of the face, jaw and head in general may be treated, along with most of the muscles, tendons and other soft tissue. The only things in the head not treated by the oral surgeon are the eyes, throat, brain and, to a degree, the nose.
Let’s look at specific services an oral surgeon provides:
Most dentists choose to work in coordination with an oral surgeon to provide dental implants for their patients. First, if there are existing teeth which need to be replaced, these are extracted. If the tooth was already extracted, there is no need. The oral surgeon then places the titanium implant—a device that serves as the “root” of the new tooth. Follow-up visits with the oral surgeon ensure that the implant fuses properly with the bone. When fusing is complete, the original dentist then creates and places a crown—the replacement for the tooth itself. The dental implant looks and functions exactly as the original tooth would.
The extensive training and residency requirements of an oral surgeon make them extraordinarily qualified to extract wisdom teeth. Add to that the extensive training of their staff and the specialized equipment of the practice—all this means that wisdom teeth can be extracted with fewer complications, less pain and faster healing.
Full Mouth Reconstruction
Widespread damage or decay to teeth may mean that a person’s best solution is full mouth reconstruction—the restoration of all one’s teeth as part of one treatment plan. Some teeth may be crowned but most are usually replaced with implants. Full mouth reconstructions are nearly miraculous, allowing some people to have a beautiful smile for the first time in their lives and giving others back their smile after injury or serious deterioration has occurred.
Emergency Dental Surgery
After a traffic or sports accident where the face or mouth have been injured, an oral surgeon will assess the exact nature of the injuries and repair them. When facial or jaw bones are fractured and teeth are knocked out, it’s an oral surgeon who immobilizes the bones and returns the teeth to their proper places, if at all possible. An oral surgeon plays a vital role in helping a person retain teeth after an accident and restoring the injured person’s appearance to pre-accident condition.
While most people think of cosmetic surgery as nose jobs or eye lifts, it actually has much more than this to offer. An oral surgeon can help correct birth defects or deformities or improve an unbalanced or unaesthetic structure. Scar reduction can help a person resume a more normal life after a facial injury.
If a dentist finds signs of cancer in the mouth, face or other external parts of the head, he will refer the patient to an oral surgeon for both diagnosis and treatment.
While an oral surgeon is a specialized dentist, the list above shows that the profession is not limited to dentistry alone. Oral surgeons help patients with both functional and aesthetic problems of all sorts. As dental experts, they’re uniquely able to handle the most complicated cases.
About Dr. Virginia Lee and Capital Oral & Facial Surgery Center
When Dr. Virginia Lee chose to be an oral surgeon, she was also choosing those additional years of education and residency to hone her expertise. She has been practicing as an oral surgeon since 1998 and has since then amassed countless happy patients. She has the training and experience to help you, regardless of what treatment you need.
Dr. Lee’s practice, Capital Oral & Facial Surgery Center, is located between Dupont Circle and Downtown Washington, D.C. With her expert skill and compassionate chair-side manner, Dr. Lee can help make your oral surgical treatment the most comfortable experience possible. Call today for a free consultation at (202)296-6600.