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What is a Maxillofacial Surgeon?

By Madeleine A.
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

A maxillofacial surgeon is a dentist who has completed a residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery. A residency refers to additional training that a dentist or medical doctor receives after graduating from dental or medical school. Typically, the maxillofacial surgeon receives training in general surgery, anesthesia, and pathology. The maxillofacial, or oral surgeon may treat patients in surgical centers, hospitals and outpatient settings, in addition to the office setting.

Typically, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon is skilled in removing impacted and diseased teeth while using anesthesia or intravenous sedation. In addition, the oral surgeon cares for patients who have sustained facial injuries, such as jaw and facial bone fractures. Frequently, the oral surgeon will be called upon to treat patients with tumors or cysts of the oral cavity and face. Abnormal pathology and infection of the mouth, salivary glands and jaw may also be treated by the oral surgeon.

Oftentimes, the maxillofacial surgeon treats patients undergoing cosmetic or reconstructive surgical procedures. Cleft palate or hair lip is a common condition that the oral surgeon may treat. This condition is seen at birth and may be successfully treated to prevent lip and facial abnormalities. Cleft palate gives the patient the characteristic split upper lip appearance and may affect speech quality and tone.

Maxillofacial surgeons may not only complete a residency in oral surgery, these experts may also complete a rigorous application and medical examination process. Typically, applicants must provide evidence of their training and educational qualifications. In addition, applicants must document their experience in all areas of maxillofacial surgery. Surgeons also are commonly required to obtain a letter of recommendation from a board certified oral surgeon attesting to the character of the applicant.

Maxillofacial surgeons generally also possess impeccable skills in the diagnosis and medical management of painful facial conditions, such as temporomandibular joint disease or related disorders. This condition, also known as TMJ, causes severe and unremitting jaw pain. In conjunction with a dentist called an orthodontist, the oral surgeon can frequently realign or reconstruct the jaw to improve bite and appearance.

Keeping current via continuing education is vital in the career of the oral surgeon. Techniques and procedures are ever-changing, and keeping current on the latest trends allows the oral surgeon to stay committed to his profession. Generally, continuing education is gained via seminars, credited courses and lectures. Frequently, senior oral surgeons are called upon to provide education and leadership to resident maxillofacial surgeons in training.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By tanner182 — On Jul 31, 2011

@Jacques6 - I always thought that getting sedated would be a good idea for dentist work. I had a bad dental visit as a kid too. The dentist was a little bit of a creep and I had severe bruising in my mouth for weeks after. I was so happy to have the tooth out, I tried to forget about the bad dentist.

Anyhow, I always have my dentist use the laughing gas because I don't know if I like the idea of being unconscious during the operation.

By Jacques6 — On Jul 30, 2011

I have had a lot of oral surgery throughout my life. My wisdom teeth in particular required a maxillofacial surgeon.

I had waited years after my wisdom teeth had grown in to have them removed. They had grown around my jaw and I had to have surgery done. I have had bad dental experiences when I was younger and I had to be sedated for it.

The recovery took awhile, but I'm glad I had them removed.

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