By: Dr. Michael Foran

What is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon?

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a specialty of dentistry that is recognized by the American Dental Association. To become an oral surgeon, one must first complete dental school. After graduation, the dentist must then complete an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency. This residency lasts four to seven years, depending on the program, and is the longest residency of any of the dental specialties.

Are all oral surgeons board certified?

No. After completing residency, oral surgeons are encouraged to become board certified; and this is a two-year process that involves passing a written qualification exam, followed by a rigorous oral examination. Not all oral surgeons complete this process. Board certification is important because, without it, many hospitals will not allow an oral surgeon to operate in their facility. Having surgical and admitting privileges to a hospital gives an oral surgeon access to other medical professionals and equipment that are not available in the private office setting. Board certification is also required to be a member of OMSNIC, the largest insurer of oral surgeons.

What do oral surgeons do?

Oral surgeons are devoted to performing surgery on the head and neck area of a person.  Much of this surgery is in the oral cavity. Oral surgeons specialize in the extraction of third molars (wisdom teeth) as well as infected and non-fixable teeth, and even healthy teeth that require removal for orthodontics and braces. But oral surgery is not just limited to the removal of teeth. Oral surgeons are heavily involved in the management of trauma to the face. They perform simple procedures such as fixing a small fracture of the jaw, to complete reconstruction of complex facial injuries. Additionally, these physicians manage simple to complex dental infections. Much of this management involves removal of the infection source as well as cleaning the deep areas of the head and neck to remove the extensions of the infection. Oral surgeons remove both benign and malignant lesions of the head and neck area and can provide moderate and deep sedation in their office as well as general anesthesia in some cases.

What is sedation dentistry? 

Any dentist in any specialty may attend short courses after graduation to receive a certificate to perform some level of sedation in their office. Oral surgeons spend four to five intense months as an anesthesia resident in a hospital setting and generally carry the more complex certifications of deep sedation and general anesthesia. They must also be certified in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, and their offices must have crash carts that contain the same life-saving drugs and equipment that are used in emergency rooms and trauma bays.

Dental implants seem to be prevalent in dentistry today. Are oral surgeons considered implantologists?

No, the terms implantology and implantologist can be very deceiving and are marketing terms that anyone can use. The American Dental Association does not recognize implantology as a specialty; subsequently there is no such person as an implantologist.  Preparing the mouth and the bone for dental implants and the placement of the implant itself is a large part of our training and specialty. Many oral surgeons have advanced imaging equipment that they utilize for implant planning and precise surgical placement.

Dr. Michael Foran is a board-certified surgeon with Carolina Oral and Facial Surgery located at 19910 North Cove Road in Cornelius. You may contact them at 704.892.1198 or visit