Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are dental specialists who perform operations on various parts of the head and neck. Oral surgeons treat diseases, deformities, and injuries of the mouth, including teeth and gums. Maxillofacial procedures involve the head, face, jaw, neck, and sinuses.

Becoming an oral or maxillofacial surgeon is expensive, and requires many years of education and training. These doctors are highly paid and have a major positive impact on their patients’ lives.

Oral Surgeon Job Description

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons work in hospitals and clinics. They help patients manage diseases in their teeth and surrounding tissues, restructure bones to correct congenital defects or repair wounds, and treat injuries and deformities in other parts of the head and neck.

These specialists are trained to diagnose and prescribe treatments for face pain resulting from tumors, infections, and nerve damage. Oral surgeons detect signs of cancer and other diseases, perform biopsies, and remove tumors.

The term “oral” refers to the mouth. Oral surgeons are so named because much of their work entails tooth problems. They extract teeth that have become impacted, infected, or damaged by disease. They perform orthodontic surgery, as well as preprosthetic surgery (preparing a patient for dentures or a dental implant). To make sure these prosthetics fit snugly, the surgeon smooths and shapes the supporting ridge of bone in the mouth. Removal of some gum tissue or the grafting of skin are sometimes necessary.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons, unlike other medical doctors who perform operations, are trained to administer anesthesia and other sedation methods. This is necessary for many types of surgery, including sinus lifts and other bone-grafting procedures. Some grafts are designed to repair damaged bone structure in the jaws, around the eyes, and in the face.

When the upper and lower jaws are not properly aligned, the result can be trouble chewing, swallowing, or talking. Corrective jaw surgery and congenital reconstruction techniques are used to correct these deformities, as well as cleft lip and palate issues.

Surgeons perform procedures to aid patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. In addition, they do cosmetic surgery to restore proper function or improve patients’ appearance.

The responsibilities of oral and maxillofacial surgeons include:
  • Interview patients to discern their complaints and symptoms
  • Perform examinations and make diagnoses
  • Prescribe treatments and discuss options with patients
  • Administer general and local anesthetics
  • Perform surgical procedures in accordance with accepted methods
  • Prescribe post-operative treatments and recommendations
  • Work with dentists, orthodontists, and other medical professionals on patients’ cases
  • Create and maintain patient records
  • Receive continuing education, read medical literature, and attend conferences

Oral Surgeon Prerequisites

Any type of surgeon needs good eye-hand coordination, steady nerves, and the ability to focus on details. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons work on the most prominent part of the human body. A person’s most recognizable features are in their face, so the surgeon must be meticulous.

These doctors require physical endurance, as well, because they have to stand for hours to complete complex procedures. Some surgeons reportedly work more than 80 hours a week. They may be called upon at any time to respond to an emergency. These conditions can be challenging for surgeons and their families.

How to become an Oral surgeon

Becoming an oral or maxillofacial surgeon requires two years of predental education in college. An undergraduate major in a science like biology or chemistry is recommended. Some students are accepted into a dental school a year or two before they get their bachelor’s degrees. However, others may find it overwhelming to attend two schools simultaneously.

There is significant competition for admission to dental schools. These institutions consider undergraduate grades, recommendations by professors, and students’ performance on the Dental Admission Test. The DAT is commonly taken during junior year in college.

Most dental schools have four-year programs, which feature classroom instruction and experience working with dentists. Students find out how to use orthopedic equipment, interact with patients, and learn how a medical clinic operates.

Following successful completion of dental school, the next step is residency training for four to six years. Students work under the supervision of a licensed oral surgeon.

Oral Surgeon Certification

Education, training, and a four-year residency qualifies a student for a certificate of specialty training in oral and maxillofacial surgery. A six-year residency results in the same certificate, plus a medical degree.

Finally, an oral surgeon must be licensed to practice medicine. These documents are issued by medical-licensing boards in each state. Application information is available on the boards’ websites.

Oral Surgeon Salary

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Oral SurgeonĀ Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the oral surgeon job description:
  • Perform operations on various parts of the head and neck
  • Work with dentists and dental assistants
  • 4 year dental school program
  • 4 to 6 additional years of residency training
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 16% employment growth by 2022