You may have gone to see a dentist or an oral surgeon and they told you that you require oral surgery. Surgery, whether major or minor, can be scary and involves taking some risks. Some patients might seek other treatment options if they are present. Unfortunately, surgery is the only treatment option available in some cases. For the doctor to recommend surgery, the risks involved are outweighed by the benefits.
Minor Vs. Major Surgery
Let’s understand the difference between major and minor surgery to help us categorize oral surgery.
Major surgeries are usually done under general anesthesia and use supported breathing mechanisms. They Involve opening up large body cavities and the risk for severe hemorrhage is high. Major surgeries are comprehensive and can put the patient at some risk.
Minor surgeries usually involve sets of procedures that require short surgical techniques. They are done on superficial tissues hence minimally invasive. Since they are minimally invasive, they have a quick recovery period. Most minor surgeries are done under local anesthesia and do not require sedation.
It is important to note that some surgeries can be considered minor for the majority of the population but are major surgeries for people with certain conditions. For instance, people suffering from hemophilia, a condition where normal blood clotting is disrupted, may require extra precautions even during routine procedures that are considered minor surgery.
Is Oral Surgery a Major Surgery?
Now that we have understood the difference between major and minor surgery, let’s look at oral surgery. Oral surgery involves working in the mouth, temporomandibular joint ( jaw joint) and sometimes, the face.
Most oral surgical procedures such as extractions are considered minor surgeries. The area involved is small. Therefore, the procedure is minimally invasive and routine techniques are employed. Local anesthesia is usually used and sedation may not be necessary. The recovery time is often short.
However, as we had discussed above, some cases of minor surgeries can be considered major. It all depends on the procedure being performed, the condition necessitating the surgery and your overall health.
Common Examples of Oral Surgery Procedures
- Extractions – These are common. Most of us have gone to the dentist for an extraction, especially of the baby teeth. Extractions of permanent teeth are however seen as a last resort to avoid creating spaces in the mouth.
- Dental implant placement – dental implants are used to replace lost teeth. The procedure involves placement of a titanium screw in the jawbone to support a crown or a dental bridge that resembles your natural teeth.
- Cleft lip and palate surgery – some babies are born with an opening on their palate (roof of the mouth) or on the lips. Cleft lip and palate occurs if there was a disturbance in the development of the facial structures while the baby was in the womb. The surgery closes up the openings that result from this disturbance to prevent infection and to restore all proper functioning of the mouth.
- Jaw reconstruction surgery – jaw reconstruction surgery is done for correction of misalignment, if the patient has issues with their jaw joint or following fractures of the jawbone.
- Periodontal surgery – it involves operating on the gums. The procedure is recommended in severe gum disease or during gum grafting.
- Removal of a pathological issue – abscesses, cysts and tumors can occur because of a pathological process that has occurred in the mouth. They appear as a swelling in the mouth. They are removed to prevent further spread and restore the normal shape and function of the mouth.
Who Performs Oral Surgery?
Depending on the case involved, different dental health professionals can carry out these procedures. A dentist can perform an extraction but cannot perform jaw reconstruction surgery which requires an oral maxillofacial surgeon.
Specialists like oral maxillofacial surgeons and periodontists undergo further training to carry out complex procedures that a general dentist cannot perform.
What Are the Benefits of Oral Surgery?
- Oral surgery removes damaged or redundant tissue. Some disease processes such as tumors damage the tissues in the mouth. The removal of these affected tissues can prevent further spread of the tumor and restore function
- To eliminate disease. Teeth that are severely damaged by tooth decay are removed by extraction. This prevents spread of the bacteria causing the decay into the bloodstream which can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a life threatening condition
- Oral surgery can be done to prevent dental problems. Extraction of retained deciduous teeth in permanent detention prevents development of orthodontic problems. Extraction is a simple surgical procedure that can prevent complex and costly orthodontic treatment.
- Oral surgeries can be done to restore function and esthetics. Repair of cleft lip and palate restores the ability of the child to use their mouth properly.