7 Common Types of Oral Surgery

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • male oral surgeon looking at camera with surgical assistants and patient in background

    Oral and maxillofacial surgery can involve operating on the teeth and jaws or other structures of the face. While the most common oral surgery is tooth extraction, some maxillofacial surgeons also can treat conditions like cleft palate and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). These doctors undergo several years of specialized training that goes far beyond general dentistry. Learn more about the most common types of oral surgery, such as oral surgery for wisdom teeth removal.

  • 1
    Tooth Extraction
    Young female Caucasian patient at dentist getting exam

    Every year, millions of people have a tooth removed for some reason or another. Often, wear-and-tear or decay cause a tooth to break or get infected, and those teeth need to be taken out by a skilled oral surgeon. During oral surgery for tooth extraction, you’ll receive a numbing agent that makes the procedure painless. The oral surgeon will extract the tooth, clean up the socket (cavity in the jaw previously occupied by the tooth), and possibly place a suture into the wound to help it heal.

  • 2
    Wisdom Teeth Removal
    panoramic x-ray highlighting four wisdom teeth with red shading and dental instruments

    Your “wisdom teeth” are simply additional molars that don’t emerge until around age 17 or 20. Many times, these molars come in just fine and give you more chewing power. But sometimes they emerge improperly, crowding against nearby teeth or failing to fully emerge. In that case, you may need oral surgery for wisdom teeth removal. This outpatient procedure might include light sedation to relieve pain and anxiety. Most people recover from wisdom tooth extraction in just a few days, with little discomfort.

  • 3
    Dental Implants
    Photo illustration of dental implant

    When people lose a single tooth or many teeth in a visible location, they often choose to replace the natural tooth (or teeth) with a dental implant(s). Dental implant surgery can be extensive, requiring several visits. Generally, your surgeon will implant a post through the gum into the jawbone for each replacement tooth (or two posts for a full lower or upper plate). People with poor bone structure may also require oral surgery for a bone graft to give the post adequate support. Once these procedures are complete, the dental implant snaps onto the post to improve your smile and restore proper jaw alignment and chewing function.

  • 4
    Procedures to Relieve Obstructive Sleep Apnea
    Throat Exam With Depressor

    Some people experience disrupted breathing (obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA) during sleep that leads to dangerously low oxygen levels. In some cases, people with OSA benefit from surgery to alter the structures of their jaw, palate, or upper airway. A few types of OSA surgery include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPP) which is the removal of tissue from the soft palate and throat, tongue advancement, and soft palate implants. A maxillofacial surgeon with specialized training can perform these types of surgeries to help people with OSA breath better and maintain their oxygenation during sleep.

  • 5
    dental tooth model with cavity down to root

    Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform apicoectomies when a root canal procedure can’t be completed because the tooth’s root is hooked at the bottom, which prevents the root canal file from reaching the very tip of the root. Since the dental instruments cannot reach the very tip of the root, nerve material can’t be removed. This, in turn, can cause an infection. An oral surgeon performs an apicoectomy by removing the tip of the root and filling the space with inert material.

  • 6
    Facial Reconstruction
    Doctors reviewing x-rays of head in hospital

    Many types of trauma can break the facial bones or jaw, or knock out teeth. Maxillofacial surgeons can perform reconstructive procedures to restore the function and appearance of the face, jaw, and oral cavity following an accident. Depending on the extent of the injuries involved, facial reconstruction can require multiple surgeries over the course of months or even years. These surgeries often are performed under general anesthesia and may require staying overnight in the hospital.

  • 7
    Cleft Palate or Lip
    baby with cleft lip, maybe cleft palate also

    Plastic surgeons usually perform cleft palate surgery on children, but maxillofacial surgeons with specialized training also can fix this facial defect that can cause problems with feeding and speech development. Babies with cleft palate have an opening in the roof of their mouth. Cleft lip refers to a turned-up front lip, and babies may have both a cleft palate and a cleft lip. A maxillofacial surgeon can repair these defects when a baby is around one year old.

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  1. Tooth Extraction. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007630.htm
  2. Opening Up Your Mouth: 7 Common Types of Oral Surgery. Healthcare Business Today. https://www.healthcarebusinesstoday.com/opening-up-your-mouth-7-common-types-of-oral-surgery/
  3. What is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon? The American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. https://www.acoms.org/page/What_is_an_OMS
  4. Wisdom Teeth. American Dental Association. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/wisdom-teeth
  5. Surgery for Sleep Apnea. American Sleep Apnea Association. https://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/sleep-apnea-treatment-options/sleep-apnea-surgery/
  6. Cleft Palate with Cleft Lip. KidsHealth from Nemours. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cleft-palate-cleft-lip.html

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 26
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