Taking your kids to the dentist every six months for teeth cleaning and checkups is part of establishing a healthy routine for dental health, and for the most part, that twice yearly trip is all you need. But since kids are kids and things happen, there’s a good chance that your child’s going to need more intense oral care at some point, and you’ll need to meet with an oral surgeon.
What Is An Oral Surgeon, Exactly?
If you’ve ever had your wisdom teeth out, or had any kind of reconstructive jaw or oral surgery, it’s a pretty good bet that an oral surgeon did the work. And since you were either a kid and didn’t think about it, or an adult and focused on the process rather than the surgeon, you’ve probably never given a lot of thought to what, exactly, turns a dentist into an oral surgeon.
An oral surgeon is a dentist–they have four years of dental school, and the DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) title. Beyond that, they have four or six years of residency in a hospital setting. After four years they have an OMS (Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery) degree, but if they continue another two years of a residency program, they have an MD degree as well, along with two additional years of clinical experience.
Why Would My Child Need An Oral Surgeon?
Wisdom teeth are typically “impacted”, or “unerupted”–they haven’t broken through the gums yet. Unlike an erupted tooth that can easily pulled with local anesthesia, wisdom tooth extraction requires more intense sedation, cutting into the gum, and then stitches to close the incision site–oral surgery.
Corrective Jaw Surgery
Sleep apnea, receding chins, and a protruding jaw are some of the skeletal or dental issues that corrective jaw, or orthognathic surgery, addresses. Difficulty in chewing, speaking, or breathing may indicate further tests to determine if surgery is needed.
If your child has an overly aggressive overbite, a receding chin and misaligned jaw could be part of the problem. Your orthodontist will tell you if orthognathic surgery is needed to fully correct the tooth alignment post treatment.
Avoiding facial trauma is why kids (and adults) wear protective helmets for sports. But accidents happen, and when they do, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a key component of the reconstructive team. This is the surgeon who rebuilds the jaw, palate, eye sockets and cheekbones with the assistance of an ENT and a plastic surgeon.
If the facial trauma involves tooth loss, implants replace the missing teeth. The oral surgeon cuts into the jawbone and implants a titanium screw (with a composite tooth). If an implants replaces a baby tooth, they’ll replace it with a permanent-sized tooth when the time comes.
A cleft palate is a fetal failure of the nasal and mouth to grow properly, resulting in a split in the roof of the mouth or lip. Children with cleft palates struggle with speech, hearing, and feeding, so repairing the cleft is crucial to development and health. Oral surgeons are part of a pediatric team of specialists who work together over several years to correct the palate.
A Day In The Life Of An Oral Surgeon
An oral surgeon’s day is much like that of any other surgeon, except that they can do some procedures in the office since wisdom teeth and implant procedures don’t require hospitalization. Part of the day is spent in consultation, both pre- and post-op, and part of the day is in surgical clinic. If a surgeon is involved with a complicated surgery, like a reconstruction or cleft palate, those happen in a hospital OR and take up a large portion of the workday.
An oral surgeon is an integral part of your dental and oral health, which in turn in is part of your overall health. Wake Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry is pleased to have our own oral surgeon on our team of specialists. Dr. Ken Benson, board certified oral surgeon, is available to consult with patients and answer any questions they have about the need for oral surgery. To make an appointment with Dr. Benson, contact us at (919) 719-1780 or use our convenient online scheduling form. We can’t wait to see you!