Larry L. Cunningham, Jr. – DDS, MD, FACS, FICD – is a surgeon with the Waco Center for Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, a USOSM partner practice treating patients in Central Texas. Growing up in Austin, Texas, Dr. Cunningham was surrounded by oral health professionals: his father, a dentist; his uncle, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon; and his aunt, a dental hygienist.
With all those oral health professionals in his family, it was not a surprise when Dr. Cunningham showed an early interest in what was – and still is – a shared family passion. He spent summers in his father’s office, learning more, and graduated from Baylor University as a pre-dent student. He went on to study dentistry at The University of Texas at San Antonio, where he received his DDS. While there, Dr. Cunningham began exploring the oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS) specialty, and he says, the rest was history.
“My journey into OMS is truly a love story. I fell in love with the specialty during dental school,” explains Cunningham. “My spring break plans fell through at the last minute, and my dad and uncle suggested I spend the week shadowing oral and maxillofacial surgeons affiliated with the university, so I did an externship, shadowing surgeons from around 6 am every morning until at least 7 pm every night, watching surgeries and learning. That’s when I knew – that was my path.”
Following dental school, Dr. Cunningham received his MD from UT Southwestern and was accepted into the renowned OMS residency program at Parkland Health and Hospital System. After completing his residency, Dr. Cunningham accepted a teaching position as an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, where he taught for more than 19 years, starting as an assistant professor, and ending as a tenured professor and the chief of the OMS department.
While in Kentucky, Dr. Cunningham had a thriving hospital practice. With 18 years of experience as a member of the cleft-lip-and-palate team in Lexington, his practice focused on alveolar cleft repairs and jaw surgery for patients with facial deformities. Other specialties were TMJ treatment, including total joint replacements, as well as the repair of injured inferior alveolar and lingual nerves.
After that, Dr. Cunningham served as the chair of OMS at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine and chair of hospital dentistry at UPMC, treating patients and teaching OMS and dentistry students. Today, Dr. Cunningham leads the Waco Center for Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Waco, Texas. A board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon with more than 20 years of experience, Dr. Cunningham provides a full-scope of OMS procedures, and his care philosophy centers on collaboration.
“I want my relationship with patients to be collaborative. The best care is achieved when patients are involved and we communicate and collaborate well,” notes Dr. Cunningham. “It’s highly personalized care that stems from listening to and understanding each patient and deciding how to manage the problem together. I want my patients to be completely comfortable with the decisions we’ve made.”
Dr. Cunningham is a diplomate and past president of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and a member and chair of the AO CMF North America Board. He has authored more than100 peer-reviewed manuscripts, reviews and chapters. His research interests have included bioengineering and resorbable grafting materials, craniofacial trauma and reconstruction, and inflammatory mediators associated with oral disease.
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