Oral surgery is an umbrella term that includes any operation performed on your teeth, gums, jaw or surrounding facial and oral structures. It includes an extensive range of procedures — including wisdom tooth extractions, dental bone grafts, periodontal grafts and corrective jaw surgery.
According to Cleveland Clinic, “Your teeth, gums and jaw joints all work together for optimal oral health and function. The overarching goal of oral surgery is to address any issue that interferes with your health or quality of life.”
You may not yet have had a condition that warrants oral surgery, but most people will eventually need some type of oral surgery procedure. Because we at NK Family Dental believe that knowledge is power, having the answers to common questions about oral surgery will make you a better informed patient should the time come.
How is an Oral Surgeon Different from a Dentist?
The main difference between an oral surgeon and a dentist is the additional education and training required to become an oral surgeon. Dentists normally complete four years of undergraduate school. Following that, they complete the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and attend four or five years of dental school. After education, dentists receive either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). As OMS Nashville points out, “There is no important difference between a DDS and a DMD, both have the same curriculum requirements.”
However, the DDS designation doesn’t mean the dentist is an oral surgeon, despite what the name suggests. An oral surgeon — also known as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon — is a specialist who usually receives the same education as a general dentist. After receiving a DDS or a DMD, oral surgeons complete a residency at a hospital that lasts between four to eight years in order to become dental surgery specialists.
A dentist is a primary dental care provider, focusing on overall oral health. In addition to providing six-month checkups and cleanings, a dentist has the following responsibilities:
- Diagnosis and treatment of tooth, gum and mouth issues.
- Dental restorations — such as fillings, crowns and bridges.
- Performing tooth extractions in which there are no complicating factors, such as an impacted tooth, or tooth broken down to the jawbone.
- Performing cosmetic procedures, such as composite bonding, veneers and crowns.
- Performing tooth whitening procedures.
- Performing preventive care, such as applying sealants.
- Educating patients about preventive dental care and good oral hygiene practices.
- Developing treatment plans for patients.
Types of Oral Surgery Procedures
As previously mentioned, an oral surgeon is a specialist who performs procedures that are more complex than those a dentist can perform. A patient is referred to an oral surgeon by their dentist to provide treatment based upon the dentist’s diagnosis.
Cleveland Clinic cites that tooth extraction is the most common type of oral surgery. If you have severe tooth decay, impacted wisdom teeth or dental trauma, your dentist may recommend a tooth extraction. Sometimes, tooth extractions are conducted to prepare patients for prosthetics devices, such as dentures — as well as to prepare for braces, in the case of overcrowding that would prevent the teeth from moving into proper alignment.
Other types of oral procedures include the following:
Dental bone graft — When bone loss occurs in your jaw, your dentist or oral surgeon will recommend a dental bone graft. Bone loss may occur for multiple reasons. When the roots of your teeth stimulate the nerves in the jaw, it signals your brain to transmit nutrients to the jaw. This keeps your jaw strong and healthy. However, when tooth loss occurs, bone deformation may occur in that area due to the absence of roots that stimulate the nerves. A dental bone graft procedure restores density and volume in your jawbone to allow dental implants to be placed in the future.
Dental implants — Considered one of the most long-lasting and effective teeth replacements, dental implants are small threaded posts. These are made of medical-grade zirconia or titanium which are embedded into the jaw to replace the roots of missing teeth. Once the implants heal, your dentist may restore them with dentures, dental crowns, or dental bridges.
Corrective jaw surgery — Also known as orthognathic surgery, corrective jaw surgery is performed to treat skeletal abnormalities in the jawbone. Corrective jaw surgery may be recommended to patients for a number of reasons, such as to correct misalignment, promote chewing function, or correct facial imbalances. It is also recommended to ease pain caused by TMJ, which results in compromised movement and pain in the jaw joint and its surrounding muscles. The temporomandibular joint functions as a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull. Some of the common symptoms of TMJ dysfunction include difficulty chewing, jaw pain, and locking and clicking of the jaw joint.
Additional conditions that necessitate oral surgery include the following:
- Removing oral cysts and benign tumors.
- Performing reconstructive surgery.
- Repairing soft tissues.
What Kinds of Anesthesia are Used for Oral Surgery?
Your oral surgeon will determine which type of anesthesia to administer for your procedure. Be candid about anxiety you may have about the surgery, as the surgeon can choose an option that will keep you calm and pain-free throughout.
Here are the most common types of anesthesia. Please understand that this list is only an overview. Discuss specific options with your oral surgeon prior to the procedure.
Local anesthetic — This allows you to remain conscious during the surgery. An anesthetic (such as lidocaine) is injected in and around the surgery area. Local anesthetic is typically used in conjunction with all other forms of anesthesia during oral surgery procedures.
Nitrous oxide sedation with local anesthetic — Also known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide can be used during simple oral surgery procedures, as well as more complex procedures, such as wisdom teeth removal and dental implant insertion. Before and during surgery, you breathe a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen. The gas allows you to stay conscious and relaxed. Nitrous oxide acts as a sedative and analgesic, calming you and controlling pain.
Office-based intravenous anesthesia with local anesthetic — I.V. anesthesia brings sedation and eliminates pain during all types of oral surgery. If you’re anxious or especially nervous, you may request I.V. anesthesia for simple procedures. Most people undergoing dental implant placement or wisdom teeth removal select intravenous anesthesia.
The Take-Home Message
If you’re told that your dental condition needs to be treated with oral surgery, we hope you now have the information to be confident of a pain-free procedure and successful outcome. Knowing what to expect goes a long way in alleviating fear, which sometimes prevents patients from seeking timely treatment — thereby leading to a more serious condition.
It is our mission at NK Family Dental to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including dental and periodontal services. Our practice is trusted for advanced oral surgery procedures and comfortable root canal treatment.
Our team of experienced, dedicated dental professionals will help address your oral health concerns, and determine the best solution for you based on your individual situation. We strive to identify treatment options that fit your needs. Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh. Dr. Danesh is a board-certified periodontist and Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. He has contributed to the publication of two books, as well as published over 20 papers in prestigious dental research journals.
We serve the neighborhoods of Logan Square, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Wicker Park with the dedication that’s earned us the reputation as the Best Dentist in Chicago!
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