Many dentists handle more than just filling cavities, performing root canals, and treating gum disease. True serious dental disasters, such as a mouth injury or oral cancers, are treated by highly educated dentists with additional medical training.
After completely four years of dental school, some dentists then continue on to four more years of residency at a hospital specializing in oral and maxillofacial surgery. They train right along with other medical doctor residents, learning emergency medicine, how to perform surgery, and anesthesiology. In fact, besides anesthesiologists, dentists are the only other healthcare professional that is licensed to administer general anesthesia. Here is a brief look at some of the services these dental professionals perform.
Wisdom Teeth Extractions
For most people, these archaic teeth begin trying to erupt in their late teens to mid-twenties. In a select few, there is plenty of room in their mouth, and the wisdom teeth erupt with no problem. For most, however, there isn't enough room for them to come in fully without causing damage to the rest of their teeth by pushing them out of alignment. For some, the wisdom teeth are impacted, which means they are unable to even break the surface as the other teeth are in the way.
In addition to pain and causing alignment problems with the rest of your teeth, wisdom teeth trying to erupt can become infected. The bacteria can then enter the bloodstream, causing septicemia- blood poisoning- or heart problems down the line. Many wisdom tooth extraction surgeries require general anesthesia as the dental surgeon must cut through bone to remove them.
Babies born with a cleft lip or cleft palate are one of the most common congenital birth defects. Left untreated, it can affect the child's ability to nurse, eat, and talk. It is also physically disfiguring, which can affect their self-esteem. A cleft lip or cleft palate also almost always presents with dental issues as well, and the child must be seen by the dentist far more frequently than most people after they have the restorative and cosmetic surgery. Some children will need to be fitted with dentures or dental implants as well.
Another component of oral and maxillofacial surgeon's work is working alongside other doctors in patients with oral cancers and tumors. General surgeons are not adequately trained in dental issues to fully know how surgery might affect their patient's teeth. Sleep apnea sufferers may also benefit from seeing an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.