What is oral surgery? What to do before and after dental surgery?

Peter Dégallier

Written by Peter Dégallier RDH, Benjamin Wang DDS

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a doctor that performs invasive surgical procedures on your mouth, teeth, jaws, and face. They are also trained to administer anesthesia, as most of the treatment they provide requires it.

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Oral surgeon vs. other dental specialists

Becoming an oral surgeon involves undergraduate study and 4 years of dental school followed by 4-6 additional years of surgical training. After that, surgeons complete a residency program. Total education is a minimum of 8-10 years, can last 12-14 years, and continues throughout the career.

Benjamin Wang

Benjamin Wang, DDS

After residency, some surgeons pursue further specialization with a fellowship of 2-3 years in areas such as craniofacial surgery, cosmetics, and head and neck oncology.

What procedures are considered oral surgery?

Surgical tooth extraction

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Oral surgery is a branch of dentistry. It includes any procedure that requires invasive treatment in and around the oral cavity and associated orofacial structures. Here are some common procedures that oral and maxillofacial surgeons do.

Fixing such issues is usually a series of procedures. In spite of how much can be achieved aesthetically, they also have practical benefits. When it comes to babies, on whom the surgeries are usually performed, it improves the ability to drink from a bottle or be nursed.

Orthognathic surgery, as jaw corrective surgery is more professionally called, has a wide range of applications. If the jaws are misaligned or if you suffer from other irregularities, an oral surgeon is the one to fix them.

The benefits include increased comfort in speaking, eating, and breathing. It also carries dramatically improved aesthetics. This surgery is performed on those who:

  • have TMJD,
  • jaw dysfunction,
  • have suffered trauma on the jaws,
  • have malocclusion or an otherwise incorrect bite,
  • suffer from bruxism, and
  • whose jaw is out of proportion with their face.

Certain forms of cancer fall into the scope of an OMS’ expertise. This includes any cancers of the neck and face. Oropharyngeal cancer may also have to be treated by an oral surgeon.

Typical treatment includes surgery under anesthesia. After physical cutting out of the cancerous cells, radiotherapy often follows under the watchful eye of a radiologist.

Oral surgeons have a background in surgery and dentistry. This means they can perform procedures on the face. Those often have both aesthetic and functional applications.

The most common ones are facelifts, eyelid surgery, and rhinoplasty. The last is commonly referred to as a nose job.

This breathing disorder is problematic when the patient is asleep. Chronic in nature, it is commonly caused by some kind of obstruction in the airway. The issue is usually explained by excess tissue that can be surgically removed.

Oral surgery preparation

  • DO

  • Fast 8-12 hours before the surgery

  • Brush and floss your teeth

  • Wear comfortable clothing

  • Bring lip balm

  • Tie up your hair if it’s long

  • Cancel if you feel flu symptoms

  • DO NOT

  • Wear jewelry

  • Put on makeup

  • Spray perfume or deodorant on yourself

Dental surgery aftercare


There is minimal risk involved if you choose an experienced specialist and listen to his or her instructions carefully. You must adhere to those directions without question. Most complications are patient-oriented.

Oral surgery is rather expensive. Of course, it depends on what you need done and your location. Invasive procedures are often a lot more expensive in larger cities.

Contact your insurance provider ahead of time to find out if you qualify for coverage. If so, you must collect documentation like X-rays and doctor’s statements to prove the surgery was medically necessary.

You can make an appointment with any doctor without insurance, but it is likely to cost you a lot.