“Oral surgeon“- this title might sound a little complicated and intimidating. This article will help you understand the role of this dental specialty in modern practice. We will take a brief look at the procedures commonly carried out by them and how they get to where they are professionally.
In brief, this is a dentist who has undergone specialist training to perform surgery or treat diseases, defects or injuries of the head, neck, face, jaws and teeth.
How to become an oral surgeon
To gain entry into this field, the dentist has to undergo specialist training based on the specific requirements of his or her country/professional board. The training varies from 3 to many more years in different countries. In some countries, a graduate degree in medicine is a must along with the basic dental undergraduate degree. One will then be trained as a maxillofacial surgeon, with a greater scope for treating head and neck problems (i.e. further afield than just dealing with the oral cavity).
A career in this field requires a high level of skill, dexterity and presence of mind. They may work in a hospital setting or in specialist practices. Their extra years of schooling and carrting out of challenging work means they can command a high salary.
The oral surgeon has to commonly deal with trauma cases, with extensive facial and dental injuries for which a quick decision making and a practical outlook is vital. Other than their attitude, they should also be physically able to perform surgeries for long hours with patience and stamina without losing focus. The ‘job description’ includes the ability to visualize the outcome of problems, and procedures, and be able to communicate the same to the patient in an easy to understand manner.
What does an oral surgeon do?
Oral surgery, of course! To clarify, this will include a varied range of treatment procedures. Here are some of the more common examples:
- ‘Surgical’ extractions and removal of difficult teeth. These are often referred to them from general dentists. ‘Difficult’ will include teeth that have very long or curved roots, lie in an awkward site anatomically (e.g. overlying a nerve or near to the sinuses), have little substance remaining or are partially or fully buried in the gum…
- The removal of wisdom teeth is one of the most common procedures carried out. Depending on the difficulty in terms of access and visibility, the oral surgeon may choose to use different techniques and instruments to remove the tooth. The procedure of wisdom teeth removal can be carried out under local or general anesthesia based on the patient evaluation and history.
- Aside from (or after) extractions, he or she also places dental implants to replace missing teeth. These require a lot of skill and knowledge. With the increase in popularity of dental implants to replace form and function of missing teeth, the oral surgeon is in an excellent position to carry this out.
- Another procedure is that of apicoectomies, sometimes done on teeth that do not settle after root canal.
- They also have a role in the diagnosis and treatment of tumors, cysts and various malformations of the structures and tissues of the head and neck region.
- The oral surgeon is also trained to take care of traumatic injuries to the face and jaws. They can fix fractures, correct the way your teeth sit together and carry out bone grafting if required in the oro-facial region.
The oral surgeon is an extremely skilled and dexterous professional, dedicated to carrying out certain surgical roles in dentistry. With their extra training and experience in certain tasks, you may find yourself referred to one should you need any of the above listed procedures.
Further reading on dental specialists: