Oral and maxillofacial surgery

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a specialization that includes surgery of the face, mouth, head, neck, oral cavity, and jaws, as well as facial trauma surgery and cosmetic surgery on the face. Surgeons who specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery are trained to recognize, diagnose, and treat an array of diseases, defects, and injuries of the head and neck, including in the jaws and the soft tissues of the mouth. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States are also trained and licensed to administer multiple types of anesthesia, including sedation. In different parts of the country, oral and maxillofacial surgeons may require both a dental degree and a medical degree, while all oral and maxillofacial surgeons must have a dental degree, at the very least.


In the United States, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are required to have professional dental degrees, and the field is formally recognized as a dental specialty, though specialists may also seek qualifications in medicine as well. To become an oral and maxillofacial surgical specialist, dental graduates must successfully complete a 4-6 year residency in which they learn the full scope of the field in the US, including, but not limited to, complicated extractions; dental implant surgery; reconstructive surgeries of the entire head, neck, face, and jaw; surgical treatments for cancers of the face, head, and neck; facial trauma surgery; and the administration of varying types of anesthesia. Once this residency is complete, oral and maxillofacial surgeons may elect to undergo an additional 1-2 years of fellowship if they wish to specialize in a specific subtype of oral and maxillofacial surgery, such as cosmetic facial surgery, trauma of the head and neck area, pediatric craniofacial and maxillofacial surgery, cancers of the head and neck, and maxillofacial regeneration.


Oral and maxillofacial surgery is unique among surgical fields in the fact that specialists are trained in general anesthesia as well as their surgical specialty. In the United States, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are required to train in both general and pediatric anesthesia, and they are the only qualified anesthesia personnel who are not solely anesthesiologists or anesthesiology residents or fellows. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are trained and licensed to administer general anesthesia and deep sedation in hospital settings as well as in office settings.


Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a demanding and highly specialized surgical specialty and is among the most highly financially compensated of all surgical specialties. While oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States must hold a professional dental degree -- either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) -- many oral and maxillofacial surgeons seek medical degrees before their dental degrees, and this path seems to be increasing in popularity, leading some programs to offer dual degrees in medicine and dentistry to allow qualified students to seamlessly complete oral and maxillofacial residency programs. Because of the complications of pediatric facial deformity and the complexity and expense of the oral and maxillofacial surgeries that focus on correcting these deformities, several global humanitarian organizations have been formed to provide corrective oral and maxillofacial surgeries. For example, Smile Train is a sustainable non-government organization that provides corrective surgery for children with cleft palate disorders, which can adversely affect abilities to eat, breathe, hear, and speak; without humanitarian organizations like this and others, many children and adults would suffer needlessly from the often-profound effects of facial deformity.