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When and Why Your Dentist Will Refer You to an Oral Surgeon

When it comes to the health of your mouth, it’s important to know which type of professional is best suited to handle the particular issues you are facing. Dentists focus on preventative care and also do cosmetic and restorative work like fillings, bridges, and even teeth whitening. On the other hand, oral surgeons are highly-trained specialists who concentrate on surgeries of the face and jaw. The two work together, and dentists will often refer patients to an oral surgeon if there is a problem that needs more advanced care.

In this article, we’ll explore a few of the most common reasons your dentist may refer you to the specialized care of an oral surgeon.

 

1. Removal of impacted teeth

Removing impacted wisdom teeth is a common procedure in most oral surgeons’ offices, but impaction can occur in other areas of the mouth as well. Impaction happens when a tooth doesn’t fully erupt from the gums. The most common causes of impaction are crowding or lack of space.

The third molars, often referred to as wisdom teeth, are the last to erupt and the easiest to become impacted. This can lead to adjacent tooth decay and gum disease, which is why dentists will often refer patients to an oral surgeon to take care of the problem.

 

2. Facial pain and jaw issues

Facial pain, popping sounds, and headaches are common symptoms of temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders. This joint connects the jaw to the skull. Research shows that about 5%-12% of the population suffers from it. Other jaw and joint disorders, either caused by accidents or present at birth, are common sources of oral surgeries.

Depending on the severity of the problem, there are different options for surgery — some ranging from minimally invasive (arthrocentesis) to full-on open joint surgery.

Because this is a focused area of the face, it’s important to have an oral surgeon evaluate and perform any procedures necessary. They have the advanced training and surgical knowledge to help alleviate pain and resolve jaw issues.

 

3. Dental implants

Dental implants are a surgical procedure that replaces the root with metal rods. Artificial teeth can also be added to aid in function and add a natural appearance. Because this is a surgery, it’s important to work with an oral surgeon in order to achieve the proper placement of the implants. Oral surgeons have experience dealing with the ins and outs of implant work and are also well versed to deal with any complications or issues that may arise.

Dental implant surgeries have increased in recent years because they are a solid alternative to dentures. Ill-fitting dentures can cause pain and various other dental issues, making implants a more desirable choice for many.

 

4. Snoring and Breathing Issues

Snoring is an uncomfortable and troubling sleep disorder that disrupts sleepers, or their partners. Snoring occurs when tissues in the throat relaxes enough and partially blocks the airway causing a vibrating sound, which can be soft or loud. Contrasted with sleep apnea, which is characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep and may or may not be accompanied by snoring sound. Both conditions are potentially dangerous.

While the first step to eliminate the problem often comes in the form of weight loss, patients may also need to use a CPAP machine at night to help them breathe more easily.

For many people, snoring and sleep apnea may sound the same, but the two are different and it is sometimes possible to eliminate the snoring, yet have the characteristic stopping-and-starting of breathing during sleep of the sleep apnea persist. For this reason, a sleep analysis is recommended first.

Oral Surgeons get involved in severe forms of snoring. Usually after sleep analysis, the oral surgeon assesses the patient’s breathing obstruction and then if needed, perform surgery. Traditional surgery involves removing excess tissue near the throat. However, advances in the field of oral surgery now allow for excess tissue reduction to be done in office with the use of a laser. With no cutting or recovery period involved, snoring sufferers now have a much easier path to good sleep and health.

 

5. Cosmetic or reconstructive surgeries

Oral surgeons also work on correcting jaw and facial issues due to accidents, deformities, or traumas from pathology removal. These surgeries can often involve the restructuring of bones, tissues, and nerves. Extensive training, clinical practice, and years of study are needed to perform these complex procedures.

Some examples of these surgeries include cancer treatment and the removal of tumors, cysts, and lesions, along with cleft lip and cleft palate surgery.

 

6. Bone grafts

In order to support dental implants, a healthy jaw bone is necessary. Because of this, many oral surgeons recommend bone grafting before a patient receives their implants. This ensures there will be enough healthy bone in the mouth to secure the implants. Many patients looking to get dental implants do not have strong enough gums, so bone grafts are needed.

Bone grafts require the transplant of tissue, either from the patient or a donor, to initiate growth where bone is absent or limited. The procedure is a common one in oral surgeons’ offices, and they are able to leverage proven techniques to help encourage bone growth.

In addition to the procedures performed above, oral surgeons are also knowledgeable about general anesthesia, as many extensive surgical procedures may be better performed while the patient is asleep. Prescribing medications is another big job of oral surgeons. Depending on the extent of the surgery, surgeons will determine the level of pain management needed to ease patient discomfort while keeping them safe.

While your dentist is generally looking out for the health of your mouth and trying to prevent tooth and gum disease, there are some situations where an oral surgeon is needed. If you’re looking to get more information about Oral Surgery DC and the types of procedures we perform or how we can assist you, contact us today.

 

Image credits: Photo on Freepik.

Impacted Teeth

Impacted Teeth: What You Need to Know for Successful Removal and Recovery

Impacted teeth are pretty common, and happen with a tooth that doesn’t grow out, or erupt, naturally continues growing under the gum instead. While the most common impacted teeth are wisdom teeth, other teeth can be blocked from erupting properly as well.

If you have an impacted tooth, your dentist will recommend that you see a specialist for removal or assisted eruption. You’ll need to consult an experienced oral surgeon to ensure the success of the procedure and full, quick recovery. Here are a few things you need to know about treating impacted teeth.

 

Impacted Teeth: How Common Are They?

Studies show that up to 35% of people experience an impacted tooth, with wisdom teeth being the most common by far. Usually, these teeth don’t fully emerge due to a lack of space in the jaw or because they grow in at the wrong angle. In many cases, impacted teeth don’t cause any symptoms for some time. Your dentist is likely to discover the problem during a routine x-ray.

Besides wisdom teeth, other teeth can be impacted as well. The second most common impacted teeth are maxillary (upper jaw) canines. About 2% of the population needs surgery to uncover these teeth.

 

Symptoms of Impacted Teeth: Can You Feel Them?

While many people don’t notice any symptoms for quite a while, once the impacted tooth starts causing problems, you could experience:

  • Swollen or red gums
  • Tender and bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Problems opening your mouth
  • Jaw pain when biting and chewing
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck

If the impacted tooth is erupting at an angle, it can also damage the nearby tooth, causing pain and inflammation.

An impacted wisdom tooth doesn’t affect your overall quality of life until it starts causing problems. Some people live with impacted wisdom teeth for decades without experiencing any discomfort.

If you have impacted or partially impacted maxillary canines, you may want to treat them to restore the aesthetic appeal of your mouth. Treating them requires a comprehensive approach by your dentist, oral surgeon, and orthodontist.

 

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Complications: Do You Need Treatment?

Besides physical discomfort, impacted and partially impacted wisdom teeth can cause a variety of problems if left untreated.

  • Pericoronitis — This is an inflammation of the gum tissue that surrounds the impacted tooth. Besides discomfort and a bad taste in your mouth, this condition can develop into more severe and painful symptoms.
  • Damage to nearby teeth — If an impacted wisdom tooth grows in at a wrong angle, it can push against the second molar. This could lead to damage or infection. Extensive pressure could also cause teeth crowding, which in turn would require orthodontic treatment.
  • Cysts — Wisdom teeth develop in a sac inside the jawbone. If a tooth doesn’t erupt, the sac can fill with fluid, which could result in a cyst. In rare cases, a benign tumor can develop. To deal with the problem, a surgeon may need to remove bone and tissue.
  • Caries — Partially impacted teeth are more likely to develop caries–or cavities–than fully erupted teeth. This is because tooth decay is more likely in areas of the mouth that are harder to clean.

All the above complications can be avoided with timely discovery and treatment of impacted teeth.

 

Treatments for Impacted Teeth

If your dentist discovers an impacted tooth during a routine x-ray, he or she will assess the severity and impact of the situation and either recommend waiting and monitoring the tooth, or seeing an oral surgeon whose treatments can include:

 

Surgical Removal

When an impacted wisdom tooth starts causing problems, you need to consult an oral surgeon. Surgical removal or extraction is a highly recommended solution for the problem of impacted wisdom teeth – for complicated extractions and for patient comfort, the procedure is usually done under general anesthesia – which means you can be asleep during the procedure.

Healing from an impacted tooth depends not only on the position of the tooth, but also on the age of the patient. As we age, our teeth ossify, or become, set into the jawbone, causing a longer healing time from an extraction procedure. Patients under the age of twenty-five usually heal more quickly from an extraction procedure as their teeth are not yet ossified. Keep in mind that everyone heals at a different pace, but typical healing times is 3-5 days of resting at home post-procedure. Pain management prescriptions may also be given depending on need and the patient’s medical profile.

 

Assisted Eruption

If it’s your maxillary canines that are impacted, the treatment usually requires a coordinated effort between your oral surgeon and orthodontist:

  • An oral surgeon cuts the gum to push it back and expose the impacted tooth. In some cases, the surgeon will also remove some of the bone surrounding the tooth’s crown.
  • An orthodontist attaches brackets and a chain to help move the tooth into its natural position.

The surgery is done under general or local anesthesia on an outpatient basis.

 

Working with an Experienced Oral Surgeon

If you think you have an impacted tooth, contact your dentist as soon as possible for a checkup and x-ray. Even if the tooth isn’t causing any discomfort, it needs regular monitoring.

If your dentist recommends surgical removal, you’ll need to consult an experienced oral surgeon. While common, both these procedures require extensive expertise in order to avoid complications and speed up the recovery process.
Contact us today for more information about surgical extraction or assisted eruption of impacted teeth.

6 Ways Oral Surgeons Can Help Improve Your Quality of Life

When most people think about visiting the oral surgeon, it’s usually prompted by a pressing dental issue that needs to be addressed, such as wisdom teeth removal, or having dental reconstruction after an accident.

Although those are important and valid reasons to visit the oral surgeon, the reality is, oral surgeons also can help you improve your quality of life in a wide variety of situations, and maybe even a few you might not be aware of.

Tooth loss, for example, can affect your quality of life for normal oral function such as eating and drinking, and even extend to speaking and self-esteem. Through various approaches, an oral surgeon can quickly and effectively address many issues you may be experiencing and get you back to your normal life.

If you’re having problems with your mouth but have been held back from seeking solutions because of cost or fear, take a moment to consider the benefits of oral surgery.

Here’s a look at common procedures performed by an Oral Surgeon and how they can improve your overall quality of life:

 

Dental Implants

If you are missing a tooth or several teeth, dental implants not only improve the aesthetics of the mouth, but also restore functionality – improving overall quality of life.

A study by Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that osteoporotic women with dental implants compared to those who have missing teeth and use removable dentures, experienced a significantly higher quality of life in every aspect including occupational, emotional, and sexual health.

With dental implants, a medical-grade titanium post is inserted into the jaw replacing the missing tooth root. Over 3-6 months, the titanium osseointegrates with the bone, providing a solid foundation on which to attach an abutment and then the fabricated tooth, or crown. Not only do the implants look like natural teeth, but also with proper care, they can last a lifetime.

 

Sleep Apnea

Many who struggle with sleep apnea spend their nights attached to a sleep mask or hose to help ease the symptoms. However, through the use of laser technology, it is possible to decrease the excess tissue at the back of the mouth, keeping the airway clear while sleeping. The best part is that with the use of laser, there is no cutting or recovery period involved; the procedure is touchless and done in office, with each session lasting about 20-30 minutes. Most patients see improvement after 3-5 sessions.

If you’re experience severe symptoms of sleep apnea, it may be time to seek the help of an oral surgeon. They can help get rid of unnecessary tissue from the back of your throat, which often exacerbates sleep apnea symptoms.

After the removal, most patients find they are able to breathe more easily, and, as a result, sleep better.

 

Bone and Gum Grafting

Bone and gum grafting is sometimes necessary for people who have ignored missing teeth for a period of years.

This is because a missing tooth root can lead to a loss or melting away of the adjacent bone and tissue. Similar to how beach grass is often planted to abate beach erosion, tooth roots serve to anchor bone in the jaw.

If you already have a missing tooth and would like to have a dental implant placed, an oral surgeon will first determine if adequate bone is available to anchor the implant. Modern 3D scanning allows for precision bone measurement and a determination can quickly be made if a bone graft is needed before placement of the dental implant.

 

Reconstructive Surgery

Those who have suffered traumatic facial injuries from an accident or who have experienced losing several teeth may find it hard to complete everyday tasks such as speaking, eating, and drinking.

Reconstructive surgery, however, can help you replace damaged teeth, correct issues with your jaw, and address gum damage.

The starting point is a CT scan which will provide a 3D representation of the mouth and surrounding structures. Depending on the complexity of the case, your oral surgeon may recommend the procedure be undertaken in a hospital setting which provides a full range of anesthesia and surgical support options that maybe needed.

 

Biopsies

Sometimes, a routine visit to the dentist may find an unusual lesion, growth, or discoloration in the oral cavity, in which case you may be referred for a biopsy. Lesions are not always bad, however, a diagnosis cannot be made by visual inspection and x-ray imaging alone, so you may be referred to an oral surgeon for a biopsy.

A biopsy involves removing a small sample of the tissue from your mouth and sending it to a lab for analysis. Depending on the location of the lesion in the mouth, numbing medication maybe used for comfort. If access to the biopsy area is needed underneath the gum, a surgical procedure may be required, and this is sometimes done under sedation (put-to-sleep) for the procedure.

The lab is usually able to analyze the sample and issue results in 7-14 days, which provides a diagnosis for the issue, and the surgeon will then discuss treatment options. Starting treatment early leads to better prognosis and outcomes.

 

Jaw Surgeries

Jaw surgery can be necessary in a variety of circumstances: for an improperly aligned jaw, to correct issues with swallowing, or to minimize excessive breakdown of your teeth, to name a few.

An oral surgeon can assess your jaw and any symptoms you may be experiencing to let you know if surgery will correct it. By addressing the problem head on, you can ensure a lifetime of a happy, healthy mouth with restored tooth and jaw function.

 

In need of help?

If you find yourself experiencing any of the issues discussed above, or others related to oral health that aren’t listed here, contact us today. We’d love to set up a consultation to offer our expert advice for improving your health and quality of life.

 

Image credit: Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels