SODM Department Spotlight: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Window of the CWRU Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery clinic and equipment inside

In addition to specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, injuries and defects of the head, mouth, teeth, gums, jaws and neck, the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery department is the only five-year program of its kind across the country—which has been in existence for over 30 years. 

Residents seeking this speciality education at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine participate in a rigorous five-year hospital surgical residency program, compared to the standard six-year program offered at other institutions. As part of this, residents obtain a medical degree and conduct their daily activities at University Hospitals. The program also partners with Louis Stokes VA Medical Center and MetroHealth.

Often, after graduation, residents pursue additional training, such as fellowships in craniofacial and head and neck oncology. Over the last 10 years, close to 100% of residents have received board certification.

Life-Changing Care

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons care for adults and children who experience a wide variety of conditions and emergency care needs—ranging from problematic wisdom teeth and misaligned jaws to accident victims suffering facial injuries and fractures. 

“We do a lot more than take out wisdom teeth, ” said Vice Dean Dale Baur, who also serves as the chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Chief of Oral and Maxillofacial at University Hospitals/Cleveland Medical Center and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. “There are a lot of professionals, in the dental and medical field, who don’t really know what we do. We do so much more than taking out wisdom teeth and putting in dental implants—we do major reconstructions and facial trauma.”

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residents and faculty provide affordable, high-quality support for patients who visit the emergency department at University Hospitals, often those who are in desperate need of care. 

“We see a lot of trauma cases, such as gunshot wounds, coming into University Hospitals and MetroHealth,” said Baur. “When we’re working on these cases, they make a significant impact on someone’s life. 

Over the last few years, the team has treated notable cases, including the facial reconstruction of a victim of terrorism and a three-year-old with a large tumor on his jaw (pg. 17 in the linked magazine). 

One case in particular stands out to Baur: a 14-year-old patient suffering from severe juvenile idiopathic arthritis which caused her jaw joints to fuse shut, to the point where she could not open her mouth, received a joint replacement.

“It was very moving. The day after surgery, when we took off her rubber bands and she could actually open her mouth, she started crying and her family was moved to tears. It was such a huge quality of life leap for her,” said Baur. “Those things we take for granted, simple things you can do when you open your mouth, brushing your teeth and chewing, she couldn’t do any of that.” 

Learn more about the School of Dental Medicine Oral and Maxillofacial department by visiting the website