Oral and maxillofacial surgery is essentially surgery of the mouth, jaws and face. It involves a wide range of surgical procedures in the oral and facial region.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery often takes the form of dento-alveolar surgery, such as surgery related to wisdom teeth and other impacted teeth. It also involves surgery for oral pathology, such as cysts of the jaws.
Included in the scope of practice is implantology – that is, replacing missing teeth with the aid of titanium screws implanted into the jawbone. Full mouth rehabilitation with implants may also be performed; and when there is a lack of bone to support implants, additional bone grafting procedures may be required.
Oral cancers and tumours are also diagnosed and treated by oral and maxillofacial surgeons. Such procedures involve resecting the tumours of the oral cavity and reconstructing with tissue from elsewhere in the body (such as the forearms or legs).
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction can also be treated with surgery in certain cases and this may involve complete joint reconstruction with replacements.
Most oral and maxillofacial surgeons work in public and private hospitals, where they reconstruct facial form and function after facial trauma. Facial fracture patients and congenital deformity patients such as cleft lip and palate patients will have their facial reconstruction carried out by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
These specialists are extensively trained, with degrees in both medicine (MBBS) and dentistry (BDS) followed by five years’ specialist training. This dual qualification is necessitated by the uniqueness of the anatomical region they treat – the mouth, jaw and face – where there is extensive overlap of medicine and dentistry in delivering specialist care.