Maxillofacial surgery is conducted for various dental problems, overbites and jaw deformities, and facial and oral tumors. This type of surgery entails diagnosing, operating on, and providing follow-up care to patients who require alterations to their mouth or jaw for either functional or cosmetic purposes. It is commonly employed to remove impacted wisdom teeth or other teeth that are especially hard to extract.
The individual conducting the surgery is called a maxillofacial surgeon. He or she traditionally has an extensive education and background in dentistry, with additional specialized training in maxillofacial surgical techniques. Maxillofacial surgeons are doctors who have completed four years of added coursework and undergone a residency in a hospital or clinic.
Dental issues are the most frequent reason people undergo maxillofacial surgery. There are several reasons why a tooth may be difficult to extract. In many cases, they are beneath the gums but pose a threat to the healthy growth of the other teeth. Additional dental issues that may necessitate maxillofacial surgery include abscesses, pain from tooth decay, and periodontal disease. Dental implants — the surgical addition of prosthetic teeth — are another maxillofacial surgical procedure.
Maxillofacial surgery is often performed to correct overbites and other jaw deformities, such as irregularities resulting from an accident or trauma. During surgery, the soft and hard tissue of the area is manipulated to remedy the situation. Depending on the type of condition, the procedure may be performed as a practical intervention to aid the health of the patient or as a strictly cosmetic procedure to enhance the appearance of the region.
Facial and oral tumors are another reason many individuals receive maxillofacial surgery. In some instances, these tumors may be cancerous, in which case surgery is scheduled upon diagnosis. Tumors may not be immediately evident to the patient, and maxillofacial surgeons will conduct a routine examination with most surgical procedures to ensure the patient's mouth is tumor-free.
Maxillofacial surgery is conducted under anesthesia. Some types of surgeries do not require general anesthesia, such as wisdom tooth extraction, which can be performed under local anesthesia or with the use of nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas." More serious types of maxillofacial surgery are conducted with the patient comfortably asleep through an intravenous injection of anesthesia. Each type of oral surgery is different, and each individual's pain tolerance level is unique. A maxillofacial surgeon will discuss the various anesthesia options with a patient before he or she undergoes surgery.