Most people when they hear the term “oral surgeon” they think of dentist. And this misconception is understandable. One of the most common things that people need to have fixed in their mouth are their teeth, and practically all of us have experienced sitting on the dentist chair to have a tooth or two extracted from our mouths. This procedure is also considered highly invasive, and most people would classify the experience as a “surgery”. However, an oral surgeon is more than just a dentist, and is responsible for a lot of other mouth-related procedures that involve more than just teeth. Here are just some of the things that an oral surgeon does:
First of all, the more technical term of the field of medical surgery that oral surgeons study is called “oral and maxillofacial surgery”. Maxillofacial is derived from the Latin word “maxilla” which means “jawbone”. Thus, oral and maxillofacial surgery is surgery that concerns itself with the mouth, jawbones, and face.
Thus, oral surgeons focus on more than just teeth (although it’s still a focus). Oral surgeons are also trained to operate on the other parts of your mouth such as the gums, the tongue, the cheeks and other soft tissues. They are also capable of operating on hard areas like the upper and lower jaws. It should also be noted that while our common definition of what the “mouth” consists of just our mouth cavity, “oral surgeons” are basically trained to operate on the entire face and neck, due to all of the bones and muscles being intrinsically connected to form one major structure.
Because of this, oral surgeons are required to undergo extra schooling, due to the sheer number of complexities involving the upper jaw, such as the eye sockets, nasal cavities, and the roof of your mouth. An oral surgeon is required to undergo an extensive 4-6 year surgical residency training covering a large scope of the responsibilities of an oral surgeon, including dental surgery, reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery, and cancer surgery.
Of course, one of the most obvious and common things for an oral surgeon to do is still dental work. As oral surgeons, part of their training still includes tooth extractions and dental implants. However, due to the nature of dental-related problems being extremely common, the more specialized field of dentistry, which focuses solely on teeth, was borne out of necessity and practicality. However, oral surgeons are still experts when it comes to dental work, mainly because of dental work being required in cases such as reconstructive surgery.
Beyond teeth, another one of the most obvious things an oral surgeon would do would be to treat mouth cancer. Namely the removal of tumors. The soft tissues within the oral cavity are very sensitive, and are important to a person’s quality of life, so it would only make sense for one of an oral surgeon’s main specialties to be the treatment and removal of mouth tumors. Aside from the oral cavity, oral surgeons are also trained to help remove tumors on the face as well.
This brings us to one of the most lucrative specializations in oral and maxillofacial surgery; reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. The human face is perhaps the most important part of our identity. As such, it is paramount that the face be reconstructed as professionally as possible whenever a grievous accident occurs, and that’s where oral surgeons come in. Often in accidents, the facial bones are damaged and even broken, leading to severe facial deformities in the skull’s structure. This is especially true in the areas surrounding the mouth, as those areas are hollow, and thus easily broken. Fortunately, oral surgeons are well-trained in the art of facial reconstruction, thanks to their intimate knowledge on the anatomy of the face. Oral surgeons are often one of the first responders to a patient after an accident, especially when it comes to saving their lives in the event that their face has caved in, leading to blockage in the nasal cavity, or worse, potential harm to the brain.
Aside from accidents, oral surgeons are also trained to help those born with facial deformities. If it has been determined that surgery is safe, oral surgeons often perform these surgeries in order to help the patient achieve as close to a normal appearance as possible. In fact, one of the most common deformity reconstruction procedures that oral surgeons do is the repairing of an in-born cleft lip and cleft palate. In this regard, oral surgeons also specialize in the removal of tumors on the surface of the face.
When it comes to cosmetic surgery, that’s when the big bucks come in. Like reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery also focuses on the patient’s appearance, and requires deep knowledge on a person’s facial structure. Unlike reconstructive surgery however, cosmetic surgery is almost purely aesthetical. Almost all people who would seek out cosmetic surgery are people with enough money to spare to get superficial improvements to their faces. Often, these individuals are involved in the entertainment and fashion industries, such as actors, musicians, and models. It should go without saying that these people have a lot of money to spend, or at least, have the backing from major agencies to “improve” their image. As such, oral surgeons who have decided to specialize solely on cosmetic surgery often end up multi-millionaires with luxury properties in Los Angeles.
In conclusion, oral surgeons are among the most diverse surgeons in medicine in the world. From something as mundane as dental work, to serious work such as oral and facial tumor removal and facial reconstruction, to the glamorous, if not superficial work of cosmetic surgery. In a way, oral surgery encompasses all experiences of human life, and oral surgeons deserve our respect in appreciating their wide berth of expertise. Some might say that they are “super-dentists” due to the fact that they are just as knowledgeable as dentists when it comes to teeth, but their knowledge extends far beyond it, with focuses on the mouth, neck, jaw, and face. Indeed, oral surgeons have taken a very wide and complex branch of surgery on a very vital part of our body, and that deserves recognition.