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What is Maxillofacial Surgery?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon317587 — On Feb 03, 2013

An oral surgeon removed far too much of my maxilla, leaving me with virtually nothing, no bone at all to hold my denture. My face has sunken in, my lips are just -- gone! Even with the denture in (which no longer will even stay in, much less be used to eat with). I cannot eat real food and I look horrible. My jaw is starting to stick out, and the TMJ is hurting all the time. What can be done?

By anon254257 — On Mar 12, 2012

Why would this surgery be recommended for someone who went in for breathing problems, and was told they had a deviated septum?

By anon248132 — On Feb 16, 2012

Dental surgery should be compulsory in every country for every person who wants to have dental surgery.

By anon181353 — On May 29, 2011

Maxillofacial surgery is not a straightforward dental surgery. It requires in depth knowledge about the nervous system of mouth and the face as a whole. Particularly, irregular development of wisdom teeth should be attended by such surgeons. Modern technology with effective pain management drugs has made it rather easy. However, one must consult a specialist Maxillofacial Surgeon for this purpose.

By anon133411 — On Dec 10, 2010

Can someone please list a maxillofacial surgeon who is very experienced and good at doing chin reduction surgery in the Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas area or any in North Texas? I am having a very hard time finding one and I am a 26 year old female who is not overweight and has a chin that is way too long and pointy for her face.

Even when I post my pic on other plastic surgery sites and ask if I could use a chin reduction the surgeons say yes, my chin is pointy and prominent. Please help me out and list some North TX surgeons who are board certified and experienced with vertical chin reductions!

By BlueMoon — On Jul 25, 2010

I just had oral surgery as well and anyone that is about to go through it should not be alarmed. The oral surgery procedures are often simple and not frightening. I went in to the office early in the morning, not being allowed to eat or drink at least 12 hours before. Once I was settled into the chair where the surgery would be performed, I was given laughing gas to relax me. After numbing my arm with a type of cold spray, my IV was inserted and I was gently put asleep. When I woke up the entire procedure was over and I had someone there to drive me home. Make sure that you have a friend or family member to take care of you for at least 24 hours after the procedure because the anesthesia can weaken the body a great deal!

By ForumApple — On Jul 25, 2010

@anon46714, I would consult your doctor, or even get a second opinion from a different doctor. If the surgery you had done is causing you problems then it needs to be fixed. I would book an appointment immediately.

I just had maxillofacial surgery and while it helped the positioning of my jaw and teeth, it is a very painful procedure to heal from. Any kind of oral surgery leaves the patient unable to eat solid foods for at least a week so I recommend soft foods such as jello, pudding and soups. Also, make sure to rinse your mouth several times a day with warm salt water to cut back on infection.

By anon46714 — On Sep 28, 2009

Can this surgery be reversed if the person is severely unhappy and depressed and more was done than expected? They said they were going to move my jaw and reshape my chin only. They have moved my whole face, my chin sticks out and my mouth goes to the right. I also cannot swallow properly and I asked would my nose be touched they said no but it has been pushed up.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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