How to Become an Oral Surgeon

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Oral surgery is a branch of dentistry that focuses on a variety of surgical procedures to treat injuries, diseases, and defects of the mouth and related areas. Oral surgeons are trained dental specialists that perform many different oral surgical procedures.


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What does an oral surgeon do?

Oral surgeons specialize in diagnosing and performing surgical treatments on patients experiencing many different conditions related to the oral region. They diagnose and treat birth defects and injuries and illnesses that affect the mouth, teeth, gums, jaw, neck, and other soft tissues located in the head. They perform many different procedures such as wisdom teeth extraction, removal of tumors, placement of dental implants, bone grafts, reconstructive surgery, and treatment of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Some oral surgeons also perform cosmetic surgery. Oral surgeons often use local and general anesthesia and intravenous sedation for surgical procedures. The also provide advice to patients on how to prevent dental diseases.

What kind of training does an oral surgeon need?

Oral surgeons must complete an undergraduate degree, dental school, and internship and residency programs in oral surgery. Dental school provides students with intensive classroom and laboratory instruction and clinical experience. Oral surgeon residency programs provide prospective oral surgeons with the necessary skills and hands-on experience to perform a variety of surgical procedures. Oral surgeons must be licensed to practice. Licensing requirements include completion of an accredited dental school and passing a written and practical examination. Many oral surgeons also become board certified from the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Oral surgeons must complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers to keep their skills current, stay up with advancements, and maintain their licenses and certifications.

What are the prospects for a career as an oral surgeon?

Employment of all surgeons is expected to grow as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased need for extensive dental treatments will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for oral surgeons with extensive experience and certifications. Many job openings will arise from need to replace oral surgeons that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do oral surgeons make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of oral surgeons earn annual salaries between $207,928 and $359,824. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $439,277 (2).

A career as an oral surgeon is an excellent choice for people with a strong interest in oral surgery and providing care to patients. Oral surgeons must have a solid knowledge of oral surgical procedures and treating a variety of conditions. Good eyesight, eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, and patience are essential characteristics. Oral surgeons must be able to work in stressful conditions and have the ability to help patients feel at ease. They must also be able to make quick decisions in emergency situations.

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