Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Reference Library

It takes many years of study and practice 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:

The average person may understandably be concerned by the prospect of wisdom teeth removal, need professional help deciding on dental implants or simply have questions about facial cosmetic surgery.

Learn more about specific oral and maxillofacial health conditions and their treatment options.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are a long-term solution for missing teeth. Imbedded directly in the jawbone, dental implants can look and feel similar to natural teeth. When properly cared for, dental implants can last a lifetime, offering an alternative to the maintenance – and regular replacement – of dentures or bridges.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth – otherwise known as third molars – are the last teeth to develop and appear in a person’s 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.

Tooth Extractions

Impacted wisdom teeth aren’t the only teeth oral surgeons remove. Whether from decay, injury or part of an orthodontic plan, most patients are referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon when a tooth needs to be extracted.

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 and treatments vary – from slight discomfort remedied by conservative therapy to limited jaw movement requiring complex surgery.

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.

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

As experts of the face, mouth and jaw, oral and maxillofacial surgeons routinely treat and repair injuries associated with facial trauma and injuries, including fractures of the jaw and around the eyes. An OMS’s knowledge of how a jaw comes together (called dental occlusion) is essential when repairing complex facial fractures.

Oral, Head and Neck Pathology

An OMS is an expert in diagnosing and surgically treating cancers and other diseases and tumors of the mouth, head and neck. With the high mortality rate associated with those cancers, it is important each person performs regular self-examinations and reaches out to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon if the self-exam reveals something abnormal.

Cleft Lip / Palate and Craniofacial Surgery

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

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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. OMSs serve as a member of your sleep management team.

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.


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.