How to Become Oral Pathologist

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Oral pathology is a branch of the dentistry field that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases. Oral pathologists are dental professionals that specialize in oral pathology and treat a variety of patients with many different oral conditions.


Hey, I'm Joshua T. Osborne

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What does an oral pathologist do?

Oral pathologists (also called oral maxillofacial pathologists) diagnose and treat many different oral diseases that affect the mouth, face, jaw, and related areas that require more intense treatment methods. They use a variety of medical instruments and obtain specimens from patients to determine the pathological conditions. They determine if the tissue is infectious or cancerous. Sometimes general dentists obtain tissue samples from patients and send them to oral pathologists for diagnosis. Oral pathologists discuss the diagnosis with patients and general dentists and the available options for treatment. Oral pathologists often choose to concentrate on hands-on practice or focus on research and diagnostics.

What kind of training does an oral pathologist need?

Oral pathologists must complete dental school and obtain a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. After dental school oral pathologists must complete a 3 years internship program in oral and maxillofacial pathology. Prospective oral pathologists learn about a variety of diseases that affect the oral cavity and their treatment options. They typically complete courses in stomatology, surgical oral pathology, clinical oral and maxillofacial radiology, histopathology, and oral microbiology. All states require oral pathologists to be licensed to practice. Licensing requirements typically include completion of a degree from an accredited dental school and passing a written and practical examination. Oral pathologists also typically become board certified from the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. They must complete regular continuing education to maintain their licenses and certifications and keep up with advancements in the field.

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

Employment of oral pathologists is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 16% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing population and increased incidence of oral diseases will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good especially for oral pathologists with extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace oral pathologists that transfer, retire, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do oral pathologists make?

As of February 2010, the average annual salary for oral pathologists is $49,000; average annual oral pathologist salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as an oral pathologist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in oral pathology and treating a variety of patients. Oral pathologists must have a solid understanding of the diagnosis and treatment of many different oral diseases. Patience, manual dexterity, good eye-hand coordination, critical thinking, and good problem solving skills are necessary characteristics. Oral pathologists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to help patients feel at ease.

Joshua T Osborne

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