What Are Oral & Facial Surgeons?

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the surgical specialists of the dental profession. Their surgical expertise and thorough understanding of both aesthetics and function uniquely qualify them to diagnose, treat and manage the conditions, defects, injuries, and the aesthetic aspects of the mouth, teeth, jaws and face.

Patients who visit their family dentist or primary care provider with complaints of pain or dysfunction in the oral and maxillofacial region are often referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for help. This patient information pamphlet discusses the role of the oral and maxillofacial surgeon on your healthcare team and some of the many services provided in the oral and maxillofacial surgery office.

Training and Scope of Practice

After four years of dental school, oral and maxillofacial surgeons complete four or more years of hospital-based surgical residency training. Their residency includes rotations through related medical fields, including internal medicine, general surgery, anesthesiology, otolaryngology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, emergency medicine and other medical specialty areas.

At the conclusion of this demanding program, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are well-prepared to perform the full scope of the specialty, which encompasses the diagnosis, surgical and related management of diseases, injuries and defects that involve both the functional and aesthetic aspects of the oral and maxillofacial regions.  This includes preventive, reconstructive or emergency care for the teeth, mouth, jaws and associated facial structures.

Depending on the residency program, some surgeons may also opt to earn a medical or other advanced degree. Some may also complete fellowships in sub-specialty areas.

Office Surgery and Anesthesia

The oral and maxillofacial surgery residency incorporates extensive anesthesia training that enables oral and maxillofacial surgeons to perform a wide variety of procedures in both an office setting and a hospital environment. Local anesthesia, nitrous oxide, intravenous sedation and general anesthesia are competently and safely administered in the oral and maxillofacial surgery office and appropriately selected to meet the requirements of the patient and the procedure. Office-based surgery is often the most efficient and cost effective way to perform many procedures while maintaining maximum patient comfort and safety.