Oral and maxillofacial surgery involves surgical procedures performed in the areas of the head, face, neck and jaw. These surgeries are recognised specialties of highly-trained dental surgeons and can be used to treat a range of conditions affecting these areas.
In this month’s Treatment Spotlight, we’re taking a look at what oral surgery is used for and how this type of surgery can help to treat oral and other health conditions.
What is oral surgery?
Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a specialist area of surgery focusing on reconstructive surgery of the face, facial trauma surgery, the oral cavity, head and neck, mouth and jaws, as well as facial cosmetic surgery.
Who can perform oral surgery?
All Dentists can perform some oral surgery, however in Australia an additional three to six years of training is required to qualify as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and some are dual qualified (also trained as a medical doctor). Qualified specialist oral surgeons carry out the more complicated procedures, usually in a hospital setting.
What conditions can be treated by oral surgery?
When wisdom teeth emerge, it’s common for them to become impacted, which means there is not enough space for the tooth to come through correctly. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause swelling, pain and infection of the gum tissue surrounding the tooth, as well as risking permanent damage to surrounding teeth and gums.
Oral surgery is used to remove impacted wisdom teeth, or any tooth that becomes impacted and poses a problem for your mouth.
Dental implants are often used to replace missing teeth following an accident or infection. Implants act as substitutes for the tooth root and are surgically anchored to the jawbone, in order to stabilise the artificial tooth to which they attach.
Oral surgery can be used in the treatment of a range of jaw-related issues, including:
- Unequal jaw growth: When the upper and lower jaws fail to grow properly, it can cause problems with speaking, eating, swallowing and breathing. If this condition can’t be corrected by orthodontic treatment, it may require corrective surgery to move all or part of the jaw or jaws into position.
- Improved denture fit: Oral surgery may be used to correct jaw irregularities in first-time denture wearers, in order to improve the fit of the dentures. For long-time denture wearers, oral surgery can also be used to add a bone graft to areas where the bone has deteriorated over time.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders: Problems arising from the TMJ, which joins the skull and lower jaw, can cause pain in the head, neck and face. While most TMJ disorders can be treated with oral medications, physical therapy and special devices, some cases may require oral surgery.
Other conditions treated with oral surgery
The following are some of the conditions which may require oral or maxillofacial surgery:
Facial injury repair: Oral surgery may be used to repair fractured or broken facial bones and jawbones
Cleft lip and cleft palate repair: Cleft lip or palate occurs when all or parts of the mouth and nasal cavity fail to grow together properly during fetal development, resulting in a gap in the lip and/or a split in the roof of the mouth. Oral surgery can be used to correct cleft lip and cleft palate.
Facial infections: Pain or swelling in the face, neck or jaw may be due to an infection. An oral surgeon can diagnose and treat facial infections, using oral surgery if needed to drain the infected area and remove any infected teeth.
Snoring and sleep apnoea: If persistent snoring or sleep apnoea can’t be treated by non-surgical methods, oral surgery may be recommended. Surgical procedures can involve removing the soft tissues of the oropharynx (an area in the back of the mouth) or lower jaw.
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