How To Choose Your Oral And Maxillofacial Surgeon
Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon should have special certification to verify they have the skill level and experience to carry out complex dental surgeries.
Choosing an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) is a little different than selecting either a family or cosmetic dentist. For general dentistry, insurance participation, pricing, convenient office hours and location, and the ability to treat your whole family are often considerations. With cosmetic dentistry, experience with the latest aesthetic procedures, affordability, and reputation for maintaining a high level of patient satisfaction are generally priorities. When it's time to choose an oral surgeon, you have several additional factors to consider. The first of these is certification.
In addition to being certified as a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) or a doctor of dental medicine (DMD), a specialist in oral surgery should also be certified as an OMS by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (ABOMS). Each certified member (or "Diplomate") has trained at the graduate level in other fields such as plastic surgery, pathology, and anesthesia. Some oral surgeons are also Medical Doctors (MDs) if they specialize in an area where such cross training will provide additional benefits for their patients.
Diplomates must pass a rigorous examination to achieve certification - and they must recertify every 10 years. Be aware that if a dentist claims to be "board eligible", this is not a status recognized by ABOMS and doesn't indicate any special expertise. To verify whether a dentist is actually certified or in the process of actively seeking certification, you can contact the Board at 312-642-0070. An oral surgeon may also be a member of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) - an organization that collaborates with ABOMS to assess oral surgeons.
Is Certification Absolutely Necessary?
Some procedures performed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons overlap with services commonly provided by other dentists. For example, a general dentist often performs extractions. Many cosmetic dentists do surgery (including bone grafting) to install dental implants. Dentists who have undergone appropriate continuing education in relevant fields and who have significant experience with these procedures may be able to offer you good results even if they are not certified by ABOMS. The complexity of your specific case often determines whether you need an expert in oral surgery.
One important thing to keep in mind is that an OMS will typically have hospital privileges and very extensive experience with administering all types of anesthesia - something other dentists may not be able to offer. If your operation will require the use of general anesthesia, this is definitely a risk factor to consider in deciding on the appropriate level of certification for your dentist.
In a field as broad as oral and maxillofacial surgery, many dental surgeons will have a few procedures that they are well known for performing. For example, one dentist might be highly skilled at treating TMJ while another might be the best in your state at correcting cleft palate. They may have published articles or volunteered time to provide education to other dentists about these operations. This is a matter of professional pride, so your dentist should be happy to talk with you about his or her accomplishments in a specific area of OMS.
Oral surgery occupies a place in the health field that sits squarely between dental medicine and general medicine. This means some procedures may be partially covered by both dental and medical insurance. This will play a part in determining which surgeon you choose since going out of network with either a dental or medical PPO may greatly increase your costs. Read through your policies carefully before you commit to a procedure with a specific surgeon. You may be required to get pre-approval for your procedure from your insurance companies. The staff at your surgeon's office should be able to submit a claim to one or both parties to minimize the amount you pay out of pocket.