What is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a dental 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.
In addition to surgical procedures, oral and maxillofacial surgeons also provide non-surgical treatments such as the administration of anesthesia and the management of pain and infection. They 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?
Conditions and Treatments
Some of the most common conditions that oral and maxillofacial surgeons diagnose and treat include:
- Impacted wisdom teeth: Wisdom teeth are the third molars that often emerge in the late teens or early twenties. However, if these teeth do not have enough room to grow or emerge properly, they can become impacted and cause pain, infection, and damage to adjacent teeth. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons can perform surgical extraction of impacted wisdom teeth.
- Facial trauma: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained to treat a variety of facial injuries, including fractures of the jaw, cheekbones, and orbital bones. They can perform reconstructive surgery to repair damaged facial bones and tissues.
- Oral cancer: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons work closely with oncologists to diagnose and treat oral cancer. They can perform biopsies to determine the type and stage of cancer and remove cancerous tissue through surgery.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders: TMJ disorders can cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons can diagnose and treat TMJ disorders, including performing corrective jaw surgery.
- Cleft lip and palate: These congenital defects occur when the lip or palate does not form properly during fetal development. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons can perform reconstructive surgery to correct these defects and improve function and appearance.
- Sleep apnea: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons can treat sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops and starts during sleep, by performing surgeries to remove excess tissue or reposition the jaw.
- Dental implants: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons can place dental implants, which are artificial tooth roots that support replacement teeth. They can also perform bone grafting procedures to improve the quality and quantity of bone for implant placement.
In addition to these conditions, oral and maxillofacial surgeons can also diagnose and treat a variety of other dental and facial problems, including infections, cysts, and tumors.
Types of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
There are several types of oral and maxillofacial surgeons who specialize in different areas of the face, jaws, mouth, and neck. Some common types of oral and maxillofacial surgeons include:
- General oral and maxillofacial surgeons: These surgeons are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions that affect the oral and facial structures, including impacted wisdom teeth, facial trauma, oral cancer, TMJ disorders, cleft lip and palate, and sleep apnea.
- Orthognathic surgeons: These surgeons specialize in correcting facial and jaw abnormalities, such as malocclusions, overbites, and underbites, through orthognathic surgery.
- Maxillofacial trauma surgeons: These surgeons specialize in treating facial injuries and fractures caused by accidents or other trauma.
- Oral cancer surgeons: These surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer, including performing biopsies, removing cancerous tissue, and reconstructing the affected area.
- Pediatric oral and maxillofacial surgeons: These surgeons specialize in treating conditions that affect children's oral and facial structures, such as cleft lip and palate, impacted teeth, and facial trauma.
- Implant and reconstructive surgeons: These surgeons specialize in placing dental implants and performing reconstructive surgeries to restore function and appearance to the face, jaws, and mouth.
- Craniofacial surgeons: These surgeons specialize in treating congenital defects of the skull and face, such as craniosynostosis, cleft lip and palate, and facial asymmetry.
The daily activities of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can vary depending on their specific area of expertise and the type of practice they work in. However, some common activities that an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may engage in on a daily basis include:
- Consultations with patients: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons may begin their day by meeting with patients to discuss their medical history, symptoms, and treatment options. They may perform a physical examination and order diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of a patient's condition.
- Surgical procedures: A large part of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon's daily activities involves performing surgical procedures. These can range from simple extractions of teeth to complex reconstructive surgeries of the face and jaw. The surgeon may perform surgeries in a hospital, outpatient surgery center, or in their own office.
- Postoperative care: After surgery, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon will monitor the patient's recovery and provide instructions for postoperative care. They may prescribe pain medications or antibiotics to manage pain and prevent infection.
- Collaboration with other medical professionals: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons often work closely with other medical professionals, such as oncologists, radiologists, and anesthesiologists, to ensure that patients receive comprehensive care. They may consult with other specialists to develop treatment plans for complex cases.
- Administrative tasks: Like any medical professional, oral and maxillofacial surgeons must also handle administrative tasks such as managing patient records, scheduling appointments, and billing patients and insurance companies.
- Continuing education: To stay current with new technologies and advances in their field, oral and maxillofacial surgeons must engage in ongoing education and training. They may attend conferences, seminars, and workshops to learn about new surgical techniques or the latest research in their field.
What is the workplace of an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon like?
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and private practices. Their workplaces can vary depending on their area of expertise and the type of practice they work in. Here are some details about the workplace of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon:
- Hospital: Many oral and maxillofacial surgeons work in hospitals, where they may perform surgeries and provide consultation services to other medical professionals. In a hospital setting, they may work in the emergency department, intensive care unit, or operating room.
- Outpatient surgery center: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons may also work in outpatient surgery centers, where they perform surgeries on an outpatient basis. These facilities are typically smaller than hospitals and may specialize in a particular type of surgery, such as dental implant placement or orthognathic surgery.
- Private practice: Some oral and maxillofacial surgeons work in private practice, where they have their own office and may see patients for a variety of conditions. In a private practice setting, they may perform surgeries, provide consultation services, and offer other dental services such as teeth extractions or dental implants.
- Research facility: Some oral and maxillofacial surgeons may work in research facilities, where they conduct research to advance the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery. They may also teach and mentor medical students and residents.
Regardless of their workplace setting, oral and maxillofacial surgeons typically work long hours, often starting early in the morning and working late into the evening. They may be on call for emergencies and may need to work weekends or holidays.
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.
- Orthopaedic 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Naturopathic Medicine
- Osteopathic Medicine
- Podiatric Medicine
- Veterinary Medicine
Dentistry Related Careers and Degrees
- Dental Assistant
- Dental Hygienist
- Dental Laboratory Assistant
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
- Pediatric Dentist
- Veterinary Dentist
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are also known as:
OMS Oral Surgeon