What is the difference between plastic surgery and maxillofacial surgery?

dental surgery

If you have ever wondered about what maxillofacial surgeons do, you might be surprised to learn that a large majority of their procedures deal with facial reconstruction. This can include reconstruction of the mouth, jaw, face and base of the skull, but is not necessarily limited to those areas. Some surgeries require donor tissue from other parts of the body such as the ribs or small intestine, which can also be done by a maxillofacial surgeon. To many, that just seems like plastic surgery, yet plastic surgeons and maxillofacial surgeons will tell you that they are not the same thing. So what is the difference between plastic surgeons and maxillofacial surgeons?

The simple answer is that maxillofacial surgeons are trained in both hard and soft tissue surgery where as plastic surgeons are not. For example, a maxillofacial surgeon is skilled in bone surgery, which they do extensively in facial reconstructions, whereas plastic surgeons focus their procedures on the soft tissues of the body like fat and muscle.

Perhaps the best way to truly understand the difference is to illustrate it through an example. Say for instance that two patients with weak  or receding chins. This is the type of chin that is not prominent and instead of sticking out at the bottom, seems to blend in and slope into the neck.

Let’s say that Patient A goes to a plastic surgeon and Patient B goes to an oral surgeon.

Patient A will likely be treated with an injection of their own fatty tissue into the chin. This will provide extra volume and can be shaped and molded and positioned to create the chin that Patient A wants. This fatty tissue will be right under the skin and will last for a few years, depending on the body’s reaction to the injection. At some point, however, the procedure would need to be repeated or touched-up in order to keep the results.

By comparison, Patient B will undergo an oral surgery that is a bit more involved than a tissue injection. During this surgery, a maxillofacial surgeon or orthodontist will make a small cut in the jaw bone, move it forward and re-position it so that the skin and tissue of the chin sit in a completely different way than before. The healing time is more intensive, of course and the surgery is more invasive, however this process is permanent and will not need to be redone or touched up in order to keep the results.

While both results can give a patient what they are looking for and be life changing, maxillofacial surgery from the professionals at Peak OMS is a better option for those who are looking for permanent results.

Now that you understand the difference between maxillofacial surgery and plastic surgery, you can be aware of your options should you or your loved ones ever require some type of reconstruction due to an accident, facial trauma or other condition, or simply if they are considering it for cosmetic reasons.