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Maxillofacial surgery is a specialization of dentistry that focuses on problems around the mouth, jaw, and neck. Doctors who decide to pursue this specialty as a career typically attend dental school and than an additional residency. Because of the important nerves that run through the face, training can take several years before a doctor may sit for medical board exams. This ensures that the surgeon is safe to practice.
A dentist or orthodontist may refer a patient for maxillofacial surgery if an issue in the mouth is too difficult to correct with orthodontics or basic dental procedures alone. A surgeon may remove severely impacted wisdom teeth, address facial pain, or fix overbites and jaw deformities. Typically, training for this specialty includes reconstructive surgery, so that the surgeon can rebuild areas of the face that are in need of it.
After a severe accident, a patient may be referred to a maxillofacial surgeon if he or she has suffered severe facial injuries. Surgery can help to correct cosmetic and other damages to the face as a result of the accident. In addition to cleaning up the physical appearance of a damaged face, the surgeon can address nerve damage and other issues that may cause pain for the patient. Especially if the patient is treated quickly, the long term impacts of accident damage can be greatly reduced.
If a patient is diagnosed with cancer or tumors on the region of the face, surgery may play a role in the patient's treatment. In addition to working with a cancer specialist, the patient can work with a surgeon to remove the damaged tissue and rebuild the face so that the patient is not subject to embarrassment as a result of strange physical appearance. Surgeons who choose to specialize on work with cancer patients may choose to pursue additional training so that they can offer the best services possible.
For people with birth defects and deformities, a referral for maxillofacial surgery can be life changing. Some surgeons specialize in the treatment of cleft lips and palates and other disfiguring deformities, sometimes even volunteering their skills in low income communities. Because the face is such a visible and important part of a person, many people with deformities feel awkward in society. Corrective surgery can change this, giving the patient more confidence in his or her daily life.