Treatments & Therapies

Oral and maxillofacial surgery – treatment, effects and risks

Mouth, jaw, and facial surgery

Oral and maxillofacial surgery , also known as cranio-maxillo-facial surgery or MKG for short , aims to heal injuries, malformations and diseases in the face and mouth area , mostly by means of surgical interventions.

This ranges from minor jaw surgery procedures that can be performed on an outpatient basis, to the closure of cleft palate, to large, highly invasive interventions, such as the reconstruction of facial and jaw bones after serious accidents. Plastic surgery procedures to be carried out in the facial area, generally referred to as “cosmetic operations”, also fall into this area.

What is oral and maxillofacial surgery?

The oral and maxillofacial surgeon must be licensed in both dental and human medicine and undergo several years of further training to become a “specialist in maxillofacial surgery”. This allows him to perform complex facial surgeries that may involve the patient’s teeth and jaws.

A prospective maxillofacial surgeon must be able to demonstrate extensive experience in the operating room. In addition, he distinguishes himself through his extended cooperation with colleagues from related fields. This is necessary due to the proximity to organs such as the eyes ( ophthalmologist ), nose , throat and throat ( ENT ), brain ( neurology ), etc., the treatment of which requires extensive consultation with the respective specialist doctors.

Especially in the face and mouth area, many clinical pictures and injuries are extremely complex and therefore require a particularly comprehensive approach from the treating physicians. Even with operations on the skull that do not take place directly in the facial area, for example to treat a skull or after accidents, an OMF surgeon is usually part of the surgical team.

Function, effect & goals

In addition to treatment, diagnostics also fall within the area of ​​responsibility of maxillofacial surgery. This includes the early detection of tumors in the oral cavity, for example, which can be carried out using a simple brush biopsy, as well as modern, imaging 3D methods and X -rays .

The anamnesis , the detailed discussion with the patient regarding his complaints, is also taken over by maxillofacial surgeons. Patients who misinterpret radiating pain , for example, perceive jaw pain as ear pain, can make misjudgments . Experienced maxillofacial surgeons can often make an accurate diagnosis because they are familiar with the complex interactions of symptoms and conditions in the mouth, jaw and face.

The cranio-maxillo-facial surgery is intended in particular to restore the normal functions of the mouth and pharynx, such as swallowing , speaking and chewing . Impairments in these areas can be caused by independent clinical pictures or as a result of completely different operations, such as tumor removal. The focus is also on aesthetic reconstruction. It is intended to enable patients with severe syndromes, illnesses or after accidents to lead a largely normal everyday life. Especially in the face and mouth area, malformations can hardly be concealed and lead to enormous psychological stress for those affected.

Therefore, interventions to correct facial malformations that do not represent any functional impairment of the organism are beneficial to the psychological well-being of the patient. Frequent interventions involve cleft lip and palate , which is one of the most prevalent malformations in newborns. The surgeries and treatments include procedures on bones , joints , and soft tissues such as the posterior soft palate, salivary glands , and inner cheeks. In addition, maxillofacial surgeons can also take on purely dental procedures such as the removal of wisdom teeth or the use of dental implants.

Complaints that are treated in the areas of sleep medicine or inflammatory processes can also lead a patient to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, although this does not correspond to the intuitive understanding of medical laypeople. General practitioners or dentists are often consulted for this purpose. Depending on the case, however, an OMF surgeon can make a more reliable and faster diagnosis and weigh up the extent to which an operation is necessary. Jaw malpositions, malformations of the nose and in the palate area can be the cause of sleep disorders and can be eliminated by the maxillofacial surgeon.

Inflammatory processes that can develop into abscesses are possible consequences of infections of the mucous membranes, especially in the mouth and face area. Here, too, oral and maxillofacial surgery can make a comprehensive diagnosis and decide whether conservative, i.e. drug therapy, is sufficient or whether inflammatory tissue needs to be surgically removed.

Risks, side effects & dangers

Surgical interventions in oral and maxillofacial surgery always take place on or in the skull and thus in the vicinity of the brain, the eyes and other organs. General risks of an operation – postoperative inflammation, bursting of the sutures, etc. – thus represent an increased risk. Wound infections that break out near the brain and can therefore easily infect it are particularly dangerous.Possible swelling from surgical wounds in the throat area can also become life-threatening if the swelling goes so far that the airways are blocked. The mouth and throat area is also a possible point of entry into the organism for pathogens, which further promotes inflammation. Close monitoring of patients after cranio-maxillo-facial surgery is necessary, and the procedure is usually followed by a stay in the intensive care unit for a few days. Complications may require another operation.

The work of maxillofacial surgeons must always be in exchange with colleagues from related fields. This requires a high degree of professional interaction. Maxillofacial surgeons must always include the professional opinions of colleagues from other medical fields in their deliberations, which generally protects the patient, but also harbors the potential for conflict in the event of differing opinions. This is the same in other medical fields, but oral and maxillofacial surgery exacerbates this problem due to its particular complexity.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.