Just hearing the words oral surgery is enough to strike fear in anyone’s heart, along with root canal. But oral surgeons are sometimes necessary to treat dental conditions that your general dentist cannot.
There are over 9,000 oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the U.S., and they have received at least an additional four years of education on top of the four required for general dentistry. So, when would you need to see one as opposed to your regular dentist? Here are some reasons why you may need to see a dental surgeon.
Your Wisdom Teeth Are Giving You a Tough Time
Your third molars, also called wisdom teeth, emerge when you’re in your late teens—hence, their name which implies you should be smart by this age. Some people get lucky and are either not born with them or they get to keep these teeth if their jaw is large enough to accommodate them.
But for most people, their mouth is too small for these last permanent teeth and they may become impacted. They can actually try to emerge sideways and push against the molar next to them. This can cause a lot of pain, swelling, and discomfort, and push other teeth out of alignment as well as cause decay.
If a wisdom tooth’s position is too tricky for a dentist to feel comfortable removing it, you’ll be referred to an oral surgeon. They have the tools and equipment to extract impacted wisdom teeth, and they can also administer anesthesia to you so you feel comfortable during the procedure.
You Need a Dental Implant
Dental implants have become a popular way to replace missing teeth. As they actually adhere to the jawbone, they feel and function just like natural teeth do. Placing a dental implant requires drilling a hole into the jaw and inserting a post (which acts as the tooth’s root) that the jawbone then grows around.
Some dentists are qualified to place dental implants, but those that are not will refer you to an oral surgeon for a consultation and the implant surgery. You’ll then return to your general dentist for a crown impression and fitting.
You Need a Bone Graft
Sometimes, the jawbone has shrunk or doesn’t have enough volume to provide proper support for a dental implant. In these cases, if a patient qualifies, an oral surgeon can perform a bone graft to help build up an area of the jawbone.
Bone grafts are sometimes necessary when the patient has had gum disease and lost teeth as a result. The bacteria, if left untreated, can actually attack and compromise the jawbone.
The procedure usually consists of taking a piece of bone from another part of the body and placing it in the area of the jaw that needs it. After several months the area will have built up enough bone to support a dental implant post.
You Need Gum Surgery
Although periodontists typically perform many types of gum surgery, many procedures can be handled by oral surgeons as well. If your gums have receded due to overzealous brushing or aging, an oral surgeon may perform a gum graft. This is when they remove healthy gum tissue elsewhere in the mouth and place it in the area where the gums have receded.
Oral surgeons may perform other types of gum surgery to treat periodontal disease and other conditions.
You Need Corrective Jaw Surgery
Oral surgeons are trained to correct many dental irregularities, including jaw problems that may be the result of an accident, injury, or birth defect. Jaw surgery can correct the alignment of the jaws and teeth making it easier to eat, breathe, and speak. An oral surgeon can also help improve a patient’s appearance if the jaw is out of alignment.
You Have TMJ
Over 10 million people suffer from temporomandibular joint or TMJ pain. This is when you have pain in the joint that allows your bottom jaw to open and close. Some people are forced to only consume liquid diets because they can barely open their mouth from the condition.
TMJ is hard to treat because it’s hard to determine exactly what causes the pain. Symptoms may also come and go, or get worse or better depending upon several factors. However, an oral surgeon may perform surgery on the jaw and joint to ease symptoms and make it easier to chew and move the jaw again.
You Have a Cleft Lip or Palate
Oral surgeons are trained to close up cleft lips and cleft palates. Both are birth defects that create a split-like opening in the roof of the mouth or both the upper lip and the roof. Babies born with either of these conditions may have troubles feeding and vocalizing.
If the condition is left untreated, it can cause embarrassment and social anxiety in children and adults. An oral surgeon can close up a cleft lip or palate, helping to restore appearance and full function of the mouth.
Dental Surgeons Treat a Variety of Conditions
Hopefully, you won’t have to ever visit a dental surgeon but if you do, just know that they offer the same type of anesthesia and sedation that a medical surgeon or dentist does to make the procedure comfortable. Oral and maxillofacial surgery is an important part of dentistry that is transforming the lives of many people every day.
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