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Unequal jaw growth. In some individuals, the upper and lower jaw
fail to grow properly. This can cause difficulty in speaking, eating,
swallowing, and breathing. While some of these
problems -- likeimproper teeth alignment -- canbe corrected with braces and other orthodontic appliances, more serious problems require oral surgery to move all or part of the upper jaw, lower jaw, or both into a new position that is more balanced, functional, and healthy.
- Improve fit of dentures. For first-time denture wearers, oral surgery can be done to correct any irregularities of the jaws prior to creating the dentures to ensure a better fit. Oral surgery can also help long-term denture wearers. Supporting bone often deteriorates over time resulting in dentures that no longer fit properly. In severe cases, an oral surgeon can add a bone graft to areas where little bone remains.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Dysfunction of the TMJ, the small joint in front of the ear where the skull and lower jaw meet, is a common source of headache and facial pain. Most patients with TMJ disorders can be successfully treated with a combination of oral medications, physical therapy, and splints. However, joint surgery is an option for advanced cases and when the diagnosis indicates a specific problem in the joint.
Other Conditions Treated by Oral Surgery
- Facial injury repair. Oral surgery is often used to fix fractured jaws and broken facial bones.
- Lesion removal and biopsy. Oral surgeons can take a small sample of abnormal growth or tissue and then send it for laboratory testing for identification. Some lesions can be managed medically or can be removed by the oral surgeon.
- Cleft lip and cleft palate repair. Cleft lip and cleft palate result when all or portions of the mouth and nasal cavity do not grow together properly during fetal development. The result is a gap in the lip and/or a split in the opening in the roof of the mouth. Oral surgeons work as part of a team of healthcare specialists to correct these problems through a series of treatments and surgical procedures over many years.
- Facial infections. Pain and swelling in the face, neck or jaws may indicate an infection. Infections in this area of the body can sometimes develop into life-threatening emergencies if not treated promptly and effectively. An oral surgeon can assist in diagnosing and treating this problem. Surgical treatment, if needed, may include cutting into and draining the infected area as well as extracting any teeth that might be involved.
- Snoring/sleep apnea. When conservative methods fail to alleviate this problem, surgery can be tried. Surgical procedures involve removing the soft tissues of the oropharynx (an area in the back portion of the mouth) or the lower jaw. Laser surgery is a newer treatment option. Depending on the surgical technique used, the laser is used to either slowly scar the palate, which tightens it, or to remove palate tissue.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD,
on May 1, 2005.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005