What is Oral Surgery?
At some point in your life, your family dentist may tell you that you need to visit an oral surgeon. These versatile and expert professionals have much to offer the public but the scope of their skills are seldom fully understood. So what is an oral surgeon and what exactly does she do?
First of all, oral surgery is a specialized and more advanced branch of dentistry. Oral surgeons are dentists who have had years of advanced training to enable them to perform complex surgical procedures on the mouth and face. You can think of an oral surgeon as a kind of combination between a dentist, medical doctor and surgeon.
The full name of this specialty is actually oral and maxillofacial surgery. Oral refers to all parts of the mouth and maxillofacial refers to the bones of the forehead, cheeks, face and jaws. Any surgery needed for the hard tissues (bones and teeth) and the soft tissues (palate, lips, muscles, skin, etc.) of the mouth or maxillofacial areas are the job of the oral surgeon.
Oral surgeons diagnose and treat injuries and diseases of the mouth, teeth and supporting parts of the body. This would include problems of the TMJ—the temporomandibular joint—which is the where your jaw hooks into your skull just in front of your ear. Some people with TMJ problems suffer from neck pain or severe headaches that only surgery will alleviate. This requires an oral surgeon.
People injured in traffic accidents often need oral surgeons to diagnose a fracture of the jaw or facial bones. An oral surgeon would be the one to diagnose the fractures and immobilize the bones so they heal correctly.
Helping General Dentists Treat Their Patients
Many general dentists, or family practitioners, send their patients to an oral surgeon for specific types of treatment. Your dentist may send you to an oral surgeon if there is any sign of tumors on your mouth or face. The oral surgeon would diagnose the problem, treat it and send you back to your dentist. Or, if your dentist found that you needed bone grafts to restore bone mass that’s been lost in the jawbones, then he might call on an oral surgeon to perform those grafts.
Many dentists also refer to oral surgeons for wisdom tooth extractions and dental implants. The more extensive training of the surgeon and staff, as well as their specialized equipment, can mean a more precise procedure, less pain and a better result.
The Making of an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
The training of an oral surgeon is very long and requires a high level of dedication, intelligence, persistence and ability to handle stressful situations. Their education includes four years of undergraduate schooling, four years of dental school and finally four to six more years of residency before one qualifies.
Due to the advanced level of training every oral surgeon must undergo, they are typically thought of as the type of dentist most qualified to perform difficult or complex procedures which others don’t have the resources or skill to perform.
About Capital Oral & Facial Surgery Center
Dr. Virginia Lee earned her Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry from Temple University in Philadelphia and did her oral surgery training at the University of Maryland and Adam Crowley’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. To this extensive education, she has added eighteen years of experience in her own practice.
An oral surgeon can make a huge difference in the quality of a person’s health and life. From birth defects to sleep apnea, from removing teeth to implanting new ones, Dr. Virginia Lee’s expert skill and compassionate chairside manner make oral surgical treatment as comfortable and smooth as possible. Dr. Lee’s practice, Capital Oral & Facial Surgery Center is located between Dupont Circle and Downtown Washington, D.C. Call (202) 296-6600 to learn how our specialized team can help you.