The mere mention of oral surgery is enough to make some people shudder.
But for individuals who can no longer bite into an apple or dig into corn on the cob due to poor dental health, regaining the ability to chew can be the motivation to take action. And technological advances can make oral and maxillofacial surgery a less frightening option.
Dr. Omel Cardenas is an oral surgeon specialist who is establishing himself in the Rio Grande Valley with a new practice in Harlingen. His parents grew up in the Valley and, after practicing in North Texas for 11 years, he returned last summer to open CARDENAS Dental Implants & Oral Surgery in Harlingen.
Located in the Valley Baptist Medical Arts Pavilion on Pease Street, Cardenas’s practice offers oral surgery services ranging from wisdom teeth extractions to dental implants and other specialized procedures. He is also on staff at Valley Baptist Medical Center.
“For many of my patients, their main goal is to be able to function in regards to chewing,” Cardenas said. “Next would be their smile.”
People with gum issues that have not allowed their teeth to remain strong and in place are turning to oral surgery in growing numbers.
“They are seeing the importance of why they need to have their teeth,” he said. “They want to be able to chew, feel self-confident again and build their self-esteem.”
One of the fastest growing procedures in dentistry, dental implants provide options to replace a single tooth or install a complete denture. The implants are placed in the jaw as an artificial root to anchor the custom-fitted replacement teeth.
While commonly referred to as dentures in a day, the entire process involves planning and preparation in advance. But the procedure, from tooth extraction to the placement of implants and dentures, can be completed in a single day.
Technological advances have simplified the procedure and made it more precise with less discomfort.
“We use computers with three-dimensional imaging,” Cardenas said. “There is no longer a need for impressions or molds anymore. And the technology is still advancing.”
From consultation and the planning stages to actual surgery can take about a month.
As with many elective medical or dental procedures implants can be expensive, but Cardenas said the outcome can justify the cost.
“Patients have to look at it as an investment for themselves,” he said. “The guarantee for implants today is about 96 percent. The manufacturer, however, guarantees their product at 100 percent.”
While dental implant patients tend to be older, Cardenas also performs wisdom teeth extractions for younger people. He also does reconstructive surgery for patients who suffer from oral cancer, genetic defects, or trauma.
“We can go in a reconstruct the jaw because it is misaligned. That’s a primary reason for the surgery,” he said.
Cardenas said he gets a great deal of satisfaction from helping people solve their dental issues.
“It does make a difference in their lives because when they come to us they can’t chew, they can’t enjoy their food anymore,” he said. “Our goal is to provide them with that again.”
A graduate of MLK/Charles R. Drew University in California after attending Texas A&M University Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry, Cardenas is also involved in using his expertise to give back to the community.
“I also do a lot of charity work in the community with other dentists as part of Dentists Who Care,” he said. “It’s a nonprofit organization put together by dentists and we want to provide and give back to the community.”
Dentists Who Care is a Rio Grande Valley organization that has offered dental services to children for more than 20 years.
“The schools determine the need,” he said. “If a child has issues they can go to the school nurse and see if they qualify. We also have a mobile van that goes around and does screening.”
Dentists and their assistants donate their services with the mobile unit, according to the Dentists Who Care website. Basic treatments include a digital panoramic x-ray and a comprehensive oral exam by the dentists. Treatments such as cleanings, restorations, fluoride treatments, and extractions may also be performed.
“There are dentists throughout the Valley who help do the work,” Cardenas said about the organization. “And now we are trying to expand to help adults and the elderly.”
To learn more about CARDENAS Dental Implants & Oral Surgery, visitwww.facebook.com/rgvoralsurgery.