What is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?
It’s a great question and one that most of us probably don’t know a great answer to other than, “They are the ones who take out wisdom teeth!”
In reality, oral surgeons do a heck of a lot more than taking out wisdom teeth, but that is a big part of what we do after residency within our practices. For starters, oral surgeons are dentists, having gotten an undergraduate degree of some sort first (mine was in philosophy) and then moving on to dental school. During the last couple years of dental school someone who wants to do Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS), goes through an application process, interviews, and then a match – similar to what a physician goes through for residency. Then, after graduating from dental school, the individual advances into the OMS residency program he or she matched at. These programs are 4-6 years in length and consist of training in a variety of medical fields and are always associated with hospitals.
One of the main areas we get trained in is anesthesia. OMS residents train for at least 5 months in general adult and pediatric anesthesia. This is hugely important because it gives us the ability to offer our patients moderate to deep sedation in the office, which is unique to oral surgeons and of great benefit to our patients. Most people don’t like getting oral surgery under local!
In addition to anesthesia, OMS residents train in general surgery, medicine and a variety of different specialized surgery fields such as plastics, ENT or oculoplastics. However, the bulk of training is spent in learning the specialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery which largely consists of the treatment of facial trauma (car accidents, gunshot wounds, assaults), oral/head/neck pathology, congenital facial abnormalities (clefts, orthognathic or jaw surgeries), treatment for the temporomandibular joint, and a large variety of dental and bone grafting surgeries including dental implants. Different OMS programs focus on different areas of the field but most give a surgeon a good amount of exposure to all areas of practice.
There’s a lot more that could be said but that’s a good start. Suffice to say that oral surgeons (same thing as oral and maxillofacial surgeons, at least in this country) train in a bunch of different areas and can offer a lot of different services to our patients.