What is a Maxillofacial Surgeon?

Maxillofacial surgeons, sometimes called oral and maxillofacial specialists, are trained to handle various conditions and injuries that affect the head, neck, mouth, jaw, and face.

What Does a Maxillofacial Surgeon Do?

Maxillofacial surgeons are qualified to treat several conditions related to the head and neck area, including:

  • Misaligned jaws
  • Impacted wisdom teeth
  • Oral reconstructive surgery
  • Cancers of the head and neck
  • Dental implants

These surgeons are also trained in anesthesia and pain control, focusing on anesthesia that allows you to walk out of the office at the end of your appointment. 

In general, maxillofacial surgeons perform surgeries to correct problems or make cosmetic changes. These surgeries are generally outpatient procedures. They will also provide you with a course for recovery after the surgery and may offer follow-up appointments.

Education and Training

Maxillofacial surgeons are medical doctors who are specifically trained in the field of maxillofacial surgery. Because of the focus on the oral area, maxillofacial surgeons typically attend dental school for four years after receiving their bachelor’s degree. 

After graduating from dental school, maxillofacial surgeons then complete:

  • A four- to six-year residency period in which the dentist studies surgery specifically. The six-year potential period includes spending an additional two years to receive a medical degree in addition to their dental degree.
  • An exam to become certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
  • If the surgeon wants to specialize, they can then complete a two-year fellowship and exam in cosmetic facial surgery, head and neck cancer, craniofacial surgery and pediatrics, or craniomaxillofacial trauma. 

What Conditions Does a Maxillofacial Surgeon Treat?

A maxillofacial surgeon may treat several conditions. Maxillofacial surgeons treat many of the same conditions as oral surgeons. Depending on the doctor, the terms may be interchangeable. Regardless of the word, maxillofacial surgeons use their expertise to handle moderately invasive procedures in the face and neck.

Dental Implants

Maxillofacial surgeons can remove teeth and replace them with synthetic options. These implants remain in your jaw permanently, acting as a replacement tooth. They may have health or cosmetic benefits. 

Reconstructive or Reparative Surgery

These surgeons can shave bones, readjust joints, or even help reconstruct broken sockets. If your face or jaw is broken or misaligned, they can help repair it and reduce your discomfort. 

Cleft Lip or Palate

Some congenital disabilities can lead to cleft lips and palates. This condition can have both cosmetic and health effects on a person for life. Maxillofacial surgeons can help repair this type of congenital disability through surgery. 

Reasons to See a Maxillofacial Surgeon

There are a few reasons you might see a maxillofacial surgeon. Your dentist or doctor may refer you to them or if you are injured. They may be one of your emergency care doctors. Here are a few reasons why people end up seeing a maxillofacial surgeon.

Skeletal Problems

Most maxillofacial surgeons work at least in part to help correct skeletal problems such as misaligned jaws. If you have chronic temporomandibular joint pain, TMJ, your dentist may refer you to a maxillofacial surgeon. 

Facial, Oral, or Neck Cancer

Maxillofacial surgeons often remove cancers of the face, neck, and jaw. These specialists have the training to remove the tumor without damaging the delicate nerves that run throughout your head and neck. 

Reconstructive Surgery

If you get in an accident and injure your face, you may end up getting maxillofacial surgery. Some of these surgeons specialize in reconstructive surgery to repair broken jaws, cheekbones, and teeth. Maxillofacial surgeons can also insert dental implants to replace teeth that are lost entirely. 

Cosmetic Surgery

Finally, maxillofacial surgeons can also treat cosmetic problems. If you are interested in getting dental implants or simply changing the profile of your face, you may end up working with one of these doctors to achieve your appearance goals. 

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