Ajit Pillai, DMD, often "faces" a challenge in his surgical practice—literally.
Pillai is a Marshfield Clinic oral and maxillofacial surgeon on staff at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital. While he has clinical expertise in a number of different types of facial surgeries, he is especially interested in repairing facial fractures. “I like the idea of putting things back to where they were before the injury,” he said. “If I could do nothing but facial fractures, I would.”
The face, he added, is the essence of who we are.
“It’s essential for communicating, eating, breathing and most of our five senses. Our first impression of someone is heavily influenced by their face. Everything is focused on it. It’s not like an injury to an arm or a leg, which can be hidden,” he said. “So when something goes wrong to the face, it can often be devastating. We do the best we can to repair the damage, but sometimes it can never be the same. For the most part, however, we can put them together close to where they were. Most of my patients are pretty happy with how things turn out.”
Pillai’s interest in medicine came naturally to him, coming from a family of physicians. A native of Indiana, he attended dental school at the Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, and completed his internship at Louisiana State University-Charity Hospital in New Orleans. He completed his surgical residency in OMS at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York. He is board certified in oral & maxillofacial surgery and in dental anesthesia. He came to Marshfield in 2007 from Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse.
Pillai is also involved in the treatment of bone tumors, cleft lip and palate disorders, dental implants, corrective jaw surgery, oral lesions, benign salivary gland tumors/disorders, surgical and non-surgical options for sleep apnea and TM-joint disorders.
“Here, we see more orbital fractures than anything else,” he said. “A lot are from vehicle accidents, and the rest are walk-in type facial trauma. If there is anything I would emphasize to area emergency department staff, it’s to get ice on a facial injury as soon as possible, especially orbital and nasal fractures. It can make a one to two day difference in when I can operate.”
That said, however, Pillai also said that in major trauma, repairing facial injuries comes after treating more serious injuries to the head, neck and limbs. “If there are facial injuries but no other serious concerns, many patients can be seen within 24 to 48 hours with no adverse effect on their long-term outcome,” he said. “The only exception is an open fracture to the mandible that goes through a tooth-bearing area. That has to be treated as soon as possible to lessen the risk of infection.”
When he’s not repairing faces, Pillai spends time with his wife, a Marshfield Clinic pharmacist, and their two sons. He’s also a “passionate golfer and a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.”