Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Reference Library

It takes many years of education and training to become an oral surgeon and have a full understanding of both the function and esthetics of the face, mouth, jaw and teeth. There are a variety of reasons someone may need the services of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS), including:

Patients are encouraged to consult with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for a variety of reasons. Patients may seek out an OMS to learn about wisdom teeth removal, educate themselves about dental implants or discuss options for facial cosmetic surgery.

Learn more about specific treatments provided by oral and maxillofacial surgeons:

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth (also known as third molars) are the last teeth to develop and erupt into the mouth, usually between the ages of 17 and 25. Wisdom teeth removal is often recommended for patients with impacted wisdom teeth – those teeth that cannot erupt properly – or wisdom teeth that are otherwise unhealthy.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are a long-term solution for missing teeth. Placed directly in the jawbone, dental implants can look and feel similar to natural teeth. When properly cared for, dental implants can be long-lasting.

Tooth Extractions

Impacted wisdom teeth aren’t the only teeth oral surgeons remove. Whether from decay, injury or part of an orthodontic plan, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon has the greatest amount of education and training to perform a safe dental extraction.

Dentoalveolar Surgery

Dentoalveolar refers to the bony areas around teeth. Occasionally patients will develop overgrowths of bone and tissue that are benign but troublesome. Some patients require removal of these areas of bony overgrowth if they have difficulty with speech, eating or other functional difficulties. Examples of these conditions include bony tori, which are large bumps on the roof of the mouth and/or on the tongue sides of the jaw. When these areas of bone are enlarged on the cheek side of the bone, they are called exostoses. When these areas of bone are removed or modified prior to placement of dentures, it is called pre-prosthetic surgery. Your dentist may identify these areas of concern and request a consultation with an OMS. Your OMS will evaluate the condition with you and weigh the risks and benefits as well as options for management.

Surgery to Assist Orthodontics

A patient may be referred to an OMS for a surgical procedure before or during orthodontic treatment. In these cases, the OMS prepares the mouth for what comes next. This may mean the removal of over-retained baby teeth or the exposure of and/or bonding devices to the unerupted teeth. Sometimes, if there is not adequate jaw size for the teeth present, some are extracted in order to assist in achieving the orthodontic objectives. Your orthodontist and OMS will work with you and your dentist to help you decide if this is necessary.

Oral Soft-tissue Surgery

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is an incredibly broad specialty. There are a number of surgeries that involve the gums, cheeks, tongue and lips. These soft-tissue surgeries improve function, appearance and oral health. 

Oral, Head and Neck Pathology

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMS) are the experts for diagnosing and surgically treating pathology of the head, neck and mouth. Tumors can be benign or malignant (cancerous). Your OMS can help diagnose your condition – often through a biopsy of the tissue – and determine your treatment plan. 

Corrective Jaw Surgery

Corrective jaw surgery – called orthognathic surgery – is performed to correct a variety of skeletal and dental irregularities. This surgery can correct excessive tooth wear, unbalanced facial appearance and sleep apnea – often improving breathing, chewing and speaking.

Facial Injury and Trauma Surgery

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are experts in treating and repairing facial trauma, including fractures of the upper and lower jaws, the orbits surrounding the eyes and facial lacerations. Their knowledge of how jaws come together (dental occlusion) is critical when repairing complex facial fractures.

TMJ and Facial Pain

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located where the skull and lower jaw meet in front of the ear. This joint is what allows the lower jaw to move and function. TMJ disorder symptoms vary, with treatment options ranging conservative therapy to more complex surgery.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

As a serious – even life-threatening – condition, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can lead to a heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and other conditions if undiagnosed and untreated. OSA occurs when the upper airway is obstructed, hindering breathing and causing the brain to repeatedly wake the sleeper. There are multiple surgical options depending on cause and severity. An OMS serves as a member of your sleep management team.

Facial Cosmetic Surgery

The dental and surgical training of oral and maxillofacial surgeons makes them uniquely qualified to perform cosmetic surgery on the face and neck. An OMS may perform a wide variety of cosmetic options, ranging from routine wrinkle-relaxing injections and laser treatments to cheekbone implants and facelifts.

Cleft Lip / Palate and Craniofacial Surgery

Cleft lip / palate and craniofacial surgery is performed to correct soft-tissue and hard-tissue anomalies noted at birth. Some of these deformities are corrected early in life, while others may require multiple surgeries over many years.


Following dental school, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon must complete at least four years of training alongside medical residents in general surgery and anesthesia. Each OMS is trained in the evaluation of patients for anesthesia, delivery of anesthesia and monitoring of patients after anesthesia.