Do you have wisdom teeth that need to be removed? A jaw that needs realigning? These are just some of the procedures performed by an oral surgeon, which is a type of dental specialist. To find out more about oral surgeons and what they do, we interviewed Dr. Gregory Welsh of BayCare Clinic in Wisconsin.
1. What is your background in dentistry? Why did you decide to specialize in oral surgery?
I received my dental degree from The Ohio State University and completed my residency at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis. I thoroughly enjoyed my oral surgery training as I was able to have more one-on-one contact with patients. I would be able to sit down and discuss their treatment options before performing the procedure and also follow-up with them afterwards. To this day, I still personally call my patients the day after their procedure to see how they are doing.
2. What are the main procedures that an oral surgeon performs?
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery entails the entire facial region with a primary focus on the upper and lower jaws. Various procedures and issues we treat include: jaw infections, congenital and acquired jaw deformities, facial trauma, TMJ disorders, dental implants to replace missing teeth, tooth extraction, exposure of impacted teeth necessary for orthodontic therapy, oral cancer and other related diseases of the mouth. Every day is different and I truly enjoy having the variety.
3. What is the most common procedure that you see?
The most common procedure would be dental extractions due to any number of reasons: failed restorations, decay or sometimes trauma. Patients are already anxious when coming to our office so we do our best to put them at ease before starting the procedure. Interestingly, statistics show that nearly 70% of adults over the age of 35 have at least one tooth missing and 25% of adults over the age of 65 have all of their teeth missing. A large portion of my practice revolves around restoring and replacing these missing teeth. Dental implants are becoming the standard of care as more and more patients understand the benefits that implants can offer.
4. Are there any signs that might tell a patient they need to see an oral surgeon?
We work closely with our referring dentists, orthodontists and physicians. Since we are a 100% referral based practice, we rely on our colleagues to know when to refer their patients to our practice. Much of our day is spent in consultations discussing treatment options and educating the patient who is then subsequently scheduled for their procedures. However, it’s common that we will need to see patients on an immediate, urgent or emergent basis due to infection or trauma. In any instance, we do everything possible to make sure they will receive the maximum benefits from their insurance company.
5. Do you have any advice to offer to patients who are nervous about having surgery?
One of the best pieces of advice I have is “don’t believe everything you hear.” There are countless “tales” of oral surgery experiences. However, the reality is oral surgery can be very comfortable due to advancing anesthesia techniques and the experience of your oral surgeon. It’s easy to get caught up in those stories, but patients typically leave our office feeling little discomfort and pleased that it went better than expected.
Thank you, Dr. Welsh, for taking the time to answer our questions. To find out more about oral surgery or Dr. Welsh’s practice, visit his website or Facebook page.