Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a surgical specialty that includes the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, injuries, defects, and appearance aspects of the head, neck, and the hard and soft tissues of the mouth, including the maxillofacial (jaws and face) area. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons commonly treat conditions such as problematic wisdom teeth, facial pain, TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction), oral cancer, misaligned jaws, and obstructive sleep apnea. They treat accident victims who suffered facial injuries, perform reconstructive and dental implant surgery, and care for patients with tumors, cysts, and abnormalities of the mouth, jaws, and face, including issues related to appearance. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons often work alongside other specialists including dentists, orthodontists, prosthodontists, radiologists, pathologists, oncologists, ENT (ear, nose, and throat) surgeons, neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, and other medical professionals.
Some of the conditions treated and procedures commonly performed are described below:
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ, is a complex group of problems related to the jaw joints. It can lead to pain and reduced movement of the jaw joints and surrounding muscles. TMJ can be caused by many conditions including sinus/ear/dental infections, headaches, facial neuralgia (nerve-related facial pain), and tumors. Treating TMJ starts with ruling out mechanical joint problems, which sometimes include symptoms such as pain or a clicking sound when the jaws move. This type of TMJ can be the result of clenching, grinding, and stressing of the jaw joints, which cause changes in the jaw cartilage and may lead to a reduced ability to open the mouth, pain, or a misaligned bite. Treatments include medication, therapy, devices such as a rubber mouth guard for sleeping, and even surgery in rare cases.
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a common disorder caused by a complete or partial collapse of the upper airway. Symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, waking during the night, daytime sleepiness, and low oxygen. Treatments include a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, weight loss, and oral appliance therapy (OAT). OAT involves using a mouth guard that fits over your teeth to pull your lower jaw forward and keep your tongue in a position that is less likely to block your airway. Surgical treatments include maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), which opens the airway by moving the upper and lower jaws forward. MMA surgery works in about 80%-90% of patients with OSA who qualify for the procedure.
“Jaw-in-a-day” surgery (whole jaw replacement with bone and teeth): This is a surgical treatment for patients who have jaw deformities or lose their jaw due to cancer or trauma. It normally takes at least 12-18 months to replace the jawbone (using bone taken from the leg), place dental implants, and fit the patient with a permanent dental prosthesis (artificial teeth). However, the jaw-in-a-day procedure allows the patient to be made “whole” in a single operation.
Dental implants, or artificial tooth roots, are similar to screws and are used to replace teeth lost due to gum disease, trauma, cancer, or other conditions. They are placed in the jaw and bond with the natural bone using artificial tissue. Once they are fully bonded, they serve as a sturdy base for supporting one or more artificial teeth, called crowns, or even a full set of teeth that allow patients to eat almost any type of food. When performed by a trained and experienced dental implant expert, implant surgery is one of the safest and most predictable procedures in dentistry.
“Third molar/wisdom teeth” removal: Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars (large, flat teeth in the back of the mouth) that usually come in between the ages of 17 and 25. Most people have them removed because they can crowd the mouth or get stuck in the jawbone or gums, causing pain. When they become embedded (or “impacted”) like this, they can lead to tumors or cysts and damage or destroy the jawbone. This condition also may cause abscesses (pockets of pus in the teeth) or a bacterial infection in the blood that can spread to the heart, kidneys, or other organs.
Craniofacial surgery is used to treat conditions such as cleft lip and cleft palate, which are openings or splits in the roof of the mouth or lip. It also is used to treat craniosynostosis syndromes, which occur when one or more bones in the skull and face improperly join together before birth, potentially causing a wide variety of problems.
The medical and dental experts in UAB Medicine’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery combine precision surgical skills with a gentle touch to help you put your best face forward. Our care teams work with your current dentist or physician to develop comprehensive, effective treatments that meet your personal needs. Backed by the resources of UAB Medicine, these professionals also rely on the research and knowledge from hundreds of specialists in more than 30 areas of medicine. Our surgeons have been trained in both medicine and dentistry, so they have extensive knowledge of both the functional and appearance aspects of the face. Our program follows guidelines set by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
Peter Waite, MD, discusses the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic at the new Hoover Primary & Specialty Care location.
WBRC FOX6 Medical Minute
Peter Waite, MD, combines medical and dental care related to procedures and conditions such as wisdom teeth removal, impacted teeth, dental implants, and facial reconstruction surgery. In this interview with WBRC FOX6, Dr. Waite discusses these and other services provided to patients at the new Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic at UAB Medicine’s Hoover Primary & Specialty Care location.
UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.View Clinical Trials
Celebrating Easter Safely During COVID-19
As Easter approaches, celebrating the holiday during a pandemic may seem more optimistic than last year, but community members should remain diligent in their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Here are a few tips for celebrating Easter more safely this year:
Consult with your primary care physician for any concerns you have about the vaccine. The vaccines approved for use in the United States are intended to train the body to successfully fight the virus and minimize symptoms. There is still a possibility of contracting COVID-19 or infecting others even after vaccination.
UAB Medicine currently offers four vaccination sites across central Alabama. For more information appointment requests and eligibility, visit our COVID-19 vaccination website.
Wear a mask
Wear a mask securely over your nose and mouth, and make sure it fits snugly along the sides of your face. Mandates and guidelines for masking may vary by location, although the CDC still recommends wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and around those outside your household. There’s a health bonus, too: masking has been shown to reduce those pesky springtime allergies caused by various pollens in the air, according to a recent study.
If your place of worship offers an online or streaming service, consider tuning in to reduce the amount of in-person contact. Reach out to family, friends, or members of your congregation to see if there is a way to help them celebrate virtually. Instead of a traditional Easter egg hunt, coordinate with neighbors to place large, bright-colored paper eggs in their windows for neighbors to “hunt” while on a family walk.
If you still plan to hold or attend an in-person gathering, be sure there is ample space to spread out. Avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces and buffet-style dining with shared serving utensils. Consider enjoying your Easter meal, or other activities and crafts, outside.
Wash Your Hands
Continue good hand hygiene before, during, and after meals and events. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse, backpack, or car for times when soap and water is not easily accessible.
If you or someone in your household is experiencing symptoms, or has recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19, cancel plans to gather with others and seek medical attention as necessary.
With the rollout of vaccine distribution across the United States, it is tempting to rush toward the light at the end of the tunnel. Continue taking precautions to protect yourself and those around you.