Oral and maxillofacial are unique among dental specialists in a number of ways. After completing four years of dental school, they go on to spend another four years in a hospital-based residency program for surgery. There, they are trained alongside other medical residents in the techniques of emergency medicine, general surgery and anesthesiology. In fact, they are the only health care specialists (aside from anesthesiologists) who can administer all levels of sedation, up to general anesthesia.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons focus on treating problems related to the hard and soft tissues of the face, mouth, and jaws (the upper jaw is referred to as the maxilla). While they sometimes work in a hospital, their practices are more often located in comfortable office settings. You may be referred to one of these specialists by your general dentist for a complex tooth extraction. Or, your orthodontist may send you for an examination if he or she suspects a problem with the alignment of your jaws.

It isn’t necessary to have an oral and maxillofacial surgeon perform every type of oral surgery; many dentists are expert at the more common procedures, such as simple extractions. However, for complex treatments that may require more invasive procedures or deeper levels of sedation, these specialists may be recommended. What kinds of procedures are they well-suited to perform? Let’s look at a few.