What Is Oral Surgery and How Is It Used?

Patient visiting dentist. Credit: Gokhan Ilgaz / Getty Images

Question: What is oral surgery?

Answer: When you hear the words "oral surgery," you may think of a hospital setting, general anaesthesia, and one or more days in recovery from this type of dental procedure. Because of that, you might be surprised to learn what is actually considered oral surgery in dentistry.

Many dental procedures performed in a general dental office are considered oral surgery and patients who require such procedures are booked for it without the inconvenience of being put on a waiting list in a different office for treatment.

Here are some examples of oral surgery procedures.

Tooth Extractions

The most recognized form of oral surgery is tooth extraction. Reasons for tooth extraction can include:

  • impacted or partially erupted wisdom teeth
  • teeth beyond repair either from tooth decay, root fracture, or trauma
  • primary teeth that have failed to fall out, preventing the eruption of permanent teeth
  • orthodontic treatment plans, which may require the removal of some teeth to reduce crowding and achieve the optimum result

Corrective Jaw Surgery

Orthognathic surgery, known as jaw surgery to most, is preformed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Common reasons for jaw surgery include:

  • TMJ (short for temporomandibular joint pain) and dysfunction caused by trauma or deformation
  • major or minor trauma to the jaw
  • malocclusion or incorrect bite
  • clenching, or grinding of the teeth, which causes excessive tooth wear
  • difficulty chewing, eating, opening and closing the mouth, or talking
  • incorrect jaw position, which can lead to an out-of-proportion facial appearance

Your dentist will refer you to see an oral surgeon if he or she feels your situation will benefit from a surgical treatment option.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are becoming a common procedure to replace missing teeth, or to provide stability to a new or existing denture.

Performed by a dentist or oral surgeon, the procedure for placing a dental implant may vary depending on the technique used by the dentist or surgeon, and by the type of implant used. Most people who have had a dental implant report the recovery was similar to that of a tooth extraction, and they were able to return to normal eating within a week of the procedure.

Detection and Treatment of Diseases

This year alone, more than 34,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer, resulting in 8,000 deaths.

Dentists are trained to detect oral cancer, as the signs of this devastating disease typically go unnoticed and are not easily detected.

If your dentist discovers something suspicious in an area of your mouth, face, neck or jaw that may have an underlying problem, a biopsy may be preformed to further diagnose a possible condition. A biopsy is usually a surgical procedure that is used to remove a piece of tissue in an area of the body that is suspected as being diseased.

You may be referred to an oral surgeon for the biopsy, but in some cases this procedure may be performed by your general dentist.

Oral surgery is commonly used to treat oral cancer, and may be used as a combination treatment with radiation therapy.

Sources:

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Conditions and Symptoms fact sheet.

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Treatments and Procedures fact sheet.

Continue Reading