What is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a dental and medical specialist who specializes in treating conditions related to the face, jaws, mouth, and neck. These professionals receive extensive training in both dentistry and medicine, allowing them to diagnose and treat a wide range of complex conditions that affect the oral and facial structures.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons work closely with other medical professionals such as anesthesiologists, radiologists, and oncologists to ensure that patients receive the best possible care. Due to their extensive training and expertise, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are often called upon to treat complex cases that other dental professionals may not have the skills or knowledge to manage.

What does an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon do?

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon performing a surgery.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon encompass a wide range of clinical and surgical tasks related to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of conditions affecting the mouth, jaws, face, and neck. Some key responsibilities include:

  • Diagnosis and Treatment Planning: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons evaluate patients' oral health, medical history, and imaging studies (such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs) to diagnose conditions such as impacted teeth, jaw misalignment, facial trauma, oral pathology, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. They develop comprehensive treatment plans tailored to each patient's unique needs, which may involve surgical or non-surgical interventions.
  • Surgical Procedures: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform a wide range of surgical procedures to address conditions affecting the oral and facial structures. This may include tooth extractions (including impacted wisdom teeth), dental implant placement, corrective jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery), treatment of facial fractures and injuries, removal of oral tumors or cysts, and reconstruction of the jaw and facial bones following trauma or disease.
  • Anesthesia and Pain Management: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained in the administration of anesthesia and pain management techniques to ensure patient comfort and safety during surgical procedures. They may administer local anesthesia, sedation, or general anesthesia, depending on the complexity of the surgery and the patient's medical history and preferences.
  • Postoperative Care and Follow-Up: After surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgeons provide postoperative care and instructions to patients, including wound care, pain management, and dietary guidelines. They monitor patients' progress during the healing process and conduct follow-up appointments to assess treatment outcomes, address any concerns or complications, and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.
  • Collaboration with Other Healthcare Professionals: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons collaborate closely with other healthcare professionals, including dentists, orthodontists, medical doctors, radiologists, and anesthesiologists, to provide comprehensive care for patients with complex oral and facial conditions. They may participate in multidisciplinary treatment teams to coordinate care and ensure optimal outcomes for patients.

Types of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons can specialize in various areas within the field, depending on their interests, training, and practice focus. Some types of oral and maxillofacial surgeons include:

  • Craniofacial Surgeons: Craniofacial surgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of congenital and acquired craniofacial anomalies, such as cleft lip and palate, craniosynostosis, and craniofacial trauma. They work closely with pediatricians, plastic surgeons, and other specialists to provide comprehensive care for patients with complex craniofacial conditions.
  • Dentoalveolar Surgeons: Dentoalveolar surgeons focus on surgical procedures involving the teeth and supporting structures (alveolar bone and gums). They perform tooth extractions, including impacted wisdom teeth, dental implant placement, bone grafting, and periodontal surgery to address gum disease.
  • Facial Trauma Surgeons: Facial trauma surgeons focus on the diagnosis and management of injuries to the facial bones, soft tissues, and dentition resulting from accidents, falls, sports injuries, or interpersonal violence. They perform surgical procedures to repair facial fractures, lacerations, and other traumatic injuries, often in collaboration with plastic surgeons and otolaryngologists.
  • Orthognathic Surgeons: Orthognathic surgeons specialize in corrective jaw surgery, also known as orthognathic surgery. They correct abnormalities of the jaw and facial bones, such as underbites, overbites, and facial asymmetry, to improve dental occlusion, facial aesthetics, and overall function.
  • Surgical Oral Pathologists: These specialists focus on the diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases and abnormalities affecting the oral and maxillofacial region, including oral cancers, cysts, and tumors. They may perform biopsies, tumor resections, and reconstructive surgeries to treat oral pathology.
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Surgeons: TMJ surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), which affect the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. They may perform arthroscopic surgery, open joint surgery, or other procedures to alleviate pain, restore function, and improve jaw mobility for patients with TMJ disorders.

Are you suited to be an oral and maxillofacial surgeon?

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also realistic, meaning they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty.

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What is the workplace of an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon like?

The workplace of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can vary depending on their practice setting, which may include private practice, academic institutions, hospitals, or surgical centers. In private practice, oral and maxillofacial surgeons typically work in dental offices or specialized oral surgery clinics equipped with surgical suites, diagnostic imaging equipment, and recovery areas. These facilities provide a comfortable and professional environment for patient consultations, examinations, and surgical procedures.

In academic institutions, oral and maxillofacial surgeons may work in university-affiliated hospitals or dental schools, where they combine clinical practice with teaching and research responsibilities. They may supervise dental students, residents, and fellows in clinical settings, participate in interdisciplinary treatment teams, and conduct research studies to advance the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery. Academic institutions offer opportunities for collaboration with other healthcare professionals and access to cutting-edge technology and resources for patient care and research.

In hospital settings, oral and maxillofacial surgeons may work in departments of oral and maxillofacial surgery, dentistry, or surgery, depending on the hospital's organizational structure. They may perform surgical procedures in operating rooms, emergency departments, or outpatient surgical centers, treating patients with a wide range of oral and facial conditions, including trauma, pathology, and congenital anomalies. Hospitals provide a diverse and challenging work environment, with opportunities for collaboration with other medical specialties, exposure to complex cases, and access to advanced medical technologies and resources for patient care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Doctor Specializations and Degrees

The following is a comprehensive list of the various specializations that a doctor can pursue and a brief summary of each specialization:

  • Allergist: An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and related conditions. Allergists have specialized training in the recognition and management of allergic reactions.
  • Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic.
  • Cardiologist: A cardiologist specializes in finding, treating, and preventing diseases that affect the heart, the arteries, and the veins.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon: A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in surgical procedures inside the thorax (the chest), which may involve the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of these organs.
  • Chiropractic Neurologist: A chiropractic neurologist is a specialized type of chiropractor who has undergone additional training in the field of neurology. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Chiropractor: A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine. Treatment is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.
  • Colorectal Surgeon: A colorectal surgeon specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. These surgeons work closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
  • Doctor: An general overview of what a doctor does and how to become one.
  • Dentist: Dentists identify potential oral health issues such as gum disease, as well as examine patients, order medical tests and determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. They also perform oral surgery and remove teeth or address other dental health problems.
  • Dermatologist: A dermatologist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting skin, hair, sweat and oil glands, nails, and mucus membranes (inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids) which can include cancer.
  • Emergency Medicine Physician: An emergency medicine physician works in emergency departments, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, and is often the first medical professional that patients see when they are in need of urgent medical care.
  • Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing conditions and diseases related to the glands and hormones. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for conditions and diseases directly related to glands and hormones they will typically send a patient to an endocrinologist.
  • Family Practitioner: A family practitioner specializes in caring for the entire family. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
  • Forensic Pathologist: A forensic pathologist investigates the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths, and is able to determine how a person died by performing an autopsy and studying tissue and laboratory results. These doctors are often called upon to provide evidence in court regarding the cause and time of such deaths.
  • Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
  • Geriatrician: A geriatrician specializes in the care of elderly patients, and often works with patients who have multiple chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as age-related cognitive and functional impairments.
  • Gynecologist: A gynecologist specializes in women's reproductive systems. Gynecologists are also sometimes certified as obstetricians, and will monitor the health of the mother and the fetus during a pregnancy.
  • Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia and leukemia.
  • Hospitalist: A hospitalist is a physician whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their duties include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
  • Immunologist: An immunologist specializes in managing problems related to the immune system, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. A smaller number of immunologists are strictly researchers seeking to better understand how the immune system works and to help develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions.
  • Infectious Disease Specialist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
  • Internist: An internist is a 'doctor of internal medicine' who can diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness. They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
  • Medical Examiner: Medical examiners are responsible for performing autopsies and collecting evidence related to the circumstances of a death, including medical history, physical examination findings, and toxicology tests.
  • Naturopathic Physician: A naturopathic physician blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The goal is to treat the underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities.
  • Nephrologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. They treat conditions such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney stones, hypertension, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Neurologist: A neurologist specializes in treating diseases that affect the human nervous system. It is a very prestigious and difficult medical specialty due to the complexity of the nervous system, which consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.
  • Neurosurgeon: A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. This includes congenital anomalies, trauma, tumours, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.
  • Obstetrician: An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
  • Occupational Physician: Occupational medicine is focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health.
  • Oncologist: An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three primary types of oncologists are: medical oncologists that specialize in the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells; surgical oncologists that perform surgical procedures to identify and remove cancerous tumors; and radiation oncologists that treat cancer with radiation therapy.
  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye. Due to the complexities and the importance of the eye as a special sense that provides vision, the discipline of ophthalmology is dedicated solely to this organ.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon treats dental and medical problems involving the oral cavity and the maxillofacial area. The maxillofacial area includes the bones of the forehead, face, cheekbones and the soft tissues. Treatment often involves performing surgery and related procedures to treat diseases, defects, or injuries, and to improve function or appearance.
  • Orthodontist: An orthodontist specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They help people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon / Orthopedist: An orthopaedic surgeon (or orthopedist) examines, diagnoses, and treats diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
  • Osteopath: Osteopaths have attended and graduated from an osteopathic medical school and practise the system of healthcare known as osteopathy. They consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms they exhibit. They see the integrated nature of the body’s organ systems and its capacity for self-regulation and self-healing.
  • Otolaryngologist: Otolaryngologists (or ENT physicians) are specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. These specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery.
  • Pathologist: A pathologist studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.
  • Pediatrician: A pediatrician specializes in providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers by administering treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries.
  • Periodontist: A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in oral inflammation, and who knows how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease.
  • Plastic Surgeon: A plastic surgeon specializes in reshaping healthy body parts for aesthetic reasons, and also in repairing or replacing body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation.
  • Podiatrist: A podiatrist practices podiatric medicine, which is a branch of science devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and study of medical disorders of the foot, ankle, lower leg and lower back. In the U.S. and Canada, podiatry is practiced as a specialty.
  • Prosthodontist: A prosthodontist specializes in restoring the look, function, comfort, and health of a patient's oral cavity with artificial materials. These artificial materials are made up of a wide variety of restorations that include fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and oral implants.
  • Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.
  • Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
  • Radiologist: A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting medical images that may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound.
  • Rheumatologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Sports Medicine Physician: A sports medicine physician specializes in taking care of people who have sports injuries that may be acquired from playing sports, exercising, or from otherwise being physically active.
  • Surgeon: A surgeon performs surgery for the purpose of removing diseased tissue or organs, to repair body systems, or to replace diseased organs with transplants.
  • Telemedicine Physician: A telemedicine physician provides remote healthcare services to patients using telecommunications technology, facilitating virtual consultations, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations.
  • Urologist: A urologist specializes in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Urologists can treat the kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, uterus, and male reproductive organs. There are also specific specialty areas that urologists may choose to focus on, such as pediatric urology, male infertility, and urologic oncology.
  • Vascular Medicine Specialist - A vascular medicine specialist specializes in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels. They may work with patients who have conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, or pulmonary embolism.
  • Vascular Surgeon - A vascular surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels, including aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and varicose veins.
  • Veterinary Dentist - A veterinary dentist is a specialized veterinarian who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of dental diseases and conditions in animals. They perform dental procedures such as cleanings, extractions, and oral surgeries to improve the oral health and well-being of pets and other animals.


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See Also
Doctor Allergist Anesthesiologist Cardiologist Cardiothoracic Surgeon Chiropractor Colorectal Surgeon Dentist Dermatologist Emergency Medicine Physician Endocrinologist Family Practitioner Forensic Pathologist Gastroenterologist Geriatrician Gynecologist Hematologist Hospitalist Immunologist Infectious Disease Specialist Internist Medical Examiner Naturopathic Physician Nephrologist Neurologist Neurosurgeon Obstetrician Occupational Physician Oncologist Ophthalmologist Orthopedic Surgeon Orthopedist Orthodontist Osteopath Otolaryngologist Pathologist Pediatrician Periodontist Plastic Surgeon Podiatrist Prosthodontist Psychiatrist Pulmonologist Radiologist Rheumatologist Sports Medicine Physician Surgeon Urologist Vascular Medicine Specialist Vascular Surgeon Chiropractic Neurologist Veterinary Dentist Telemedicine Physician

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are also known as:
OMFS Oral Surgeon OMS