Oral surgery is any medical procedure that is performed on the mouth, especially involving the teeth, gums or jaw. Depending on the type of surgery being performed, it can either be carried out by the dentist or may require referral to an oral & maxillofacial department in a hospital. Oral surgery performed in a dental practice is quite common and normally only requires a local anaesthetic. Procedures include:
If a broken or decayed tooth cannot be repaired with a filling or other restorative treatment, it may have to be extracted. Tooth extraction involves removing the tooth from its socket in the bone. Reasons for removing a tooth include:
- Extensive decay or a broken tooth that cannot be repaired.
- A baby tooth that has failed to fall out and is preventing a permanent tooth from emerging.
- An impacted wisdom tooth – wisdom teeth are the last set of teeth to emerge, but if there is not sufficient space in the mouth, they may come through at an angle or fail to fully erupt. This can result in the tooth becoming ‘impacted’, which can cause swelling, pain and infection of the surrounding gum area.
- The need to make more space for orthodontic treatment to reduce crowding and so optimum results can be achieved.
An extraction will either be a simple extraction, performed on a tooth that can be seen in the mouth, or a surgical extraction which is used for a tooth that has broken off at the gum line or has not yet emerged.
Dental implants are a long-lasting solution to missing teeth and can also provide increased stability to a new or existing denture. They consist of tiny titanium posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone to act as substitute tooth roots. Once these metal posts have fused with the jawbone and healed, they are used as supports for replacement teeth.
Jaw related problems
This type of surgery is performed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons and common reasons for carrying it out include:
- Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ) – the temporomandibular joint is located in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet. Joint surgery can help with disorders of this small joint which can commonly cause headaches and facial pain.
- Trauma to the jaw
- Malocclusion (an incorrect ‘bite’)
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth
- Improving the fit of dentures – surgery can be carried out to correct irregularities of the jaw so dentures will be a better fit.
- Difficulty chewing or eating, opening the mouth or talking
- Incorrect jaw position which may lead to an unbalanced facial appearance
Detection and treatment of disease
During regular check-ups, dentists will look for signs of oral cancer and if necessary a surgical biopsy may be undertaken. This involves removing a small sample of abnormal growth or tissue for testing. If cancer is detected, surgery can also be used as a treatment method.