How to Become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a dental professional qualified to perform complex surgical procedures on the mouth, jaw, and teeth. Oral surgeons often get patients via referrals from dentists and orthodontists and do surgeries like cleft palate repair, bone grafts, and gum contouring for denture fitting. People in this field enjoy finding solutions to complex dental problems and providing a better quality of life to patients.

About Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are dentists who specialize in oral surgery. After additional residency training, these dental surgeons are qualified to fix cleft palates, complete tooth extractions like impacted wisdom teeth, and perform a variety of other dental surgeries. The training is rigorous and can take from four to eight years to fully complete. Though obtaining the education for this job is difficult, oral and maxillofacial surgeons have high job satisfaction.

Education and Experience Needed

To become an oral surgeon, your preparation starts in undergrad. Major in a science degree that will help you get into dental school. Biology or chemistry are good choices. Then, you need to complete either a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree or a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. Though they have different names, both of these degrees qualify you to become a dentist.

After obtaining your dental degree and passing the National Board Dental Exam, you need to do residency training in a surgical program. The residency program for oral and maxillofacial surgeons puts you in an operating room environment, teaches you how to perform these complex surgeries, and even teaches you to administer anesthesia. Graduating from this residency means you’re almost done, but you still need to pass certification exams to become board certified to practice. Some states require oral surgeons to get licenses, too.       

Average Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for this type of surgeon is $232,870. Where your work impacts your salary significantly. In Los Angeles, the average oral surgeon salary is $282,010, and in Columbus, Ohio, the average is $269,610.

Average Duties and Tasks

Your job as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon will be to correct problems with patients’ faces, mouths, and jaws. You’ll be working with both hard and soft tissue. Some of the surgeries you perform could include: fixing cleft palates, doing complicated tooth extractions, or correcting misaligned bites. Reconstructive surgeries, dental implants, and even bone grafting are all procedures oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform.

Though some surgeons work in hospitals, many have offices outside of hospitals. You can either perform surgery in an outpatient facility, or you can book operating rooms at the hospital to perform your surgeries.

Though patients may find you on their own, typically people get referred to oral and maxillofacial surgeons via dentists. Orthodontists who cannot fix certain bite or jaw problems also send patients to surgeons for corrective measurements.

An Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon is one of the very few healthcare professionals qualified to administer anesthesia. As one of these specialized surgeons, you may be responsible for administering and monitoring the anesthetic under which you place your patients. You’ll be qualified to give sedation up to general anesthesia, the strongest type of sedation available.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to have a set schedule, then you’ll be happy with the hours typical to this career. Most oral and maxillofacial surgeons work regular 40-hour a week schedules. Thanks to scheduled surgeries and office environments, you’re not likely to have the unpredictable hours that other kinds of surgeons face. Keep in mind, however, that many of these surgeries last for hours, and these surgeons spend significant time inside operating rooms.

Advancement Opportunities

One major opportunity for advancement is becoming specialized in performing a specific kind of oral surgery. Then, you can work in a hospital or a dentist’s office as a specialist for one of these difficult procedures and often make more than you would as a general oral surgeon. The other way to advance your career is to open your own practice. This is the route for people who have the business ability and the ability to market and advertise.

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a career for people interested in dentistry with high levels of complexity. This is one of the highest-earning medical professions, only out-earned by other kinds of surgeons. Relatively normal work hours make this an appealing career for medical professionals looking for work-life balance, while opportunities for advancement and higher salaries are available in pursuing surgical specialties and opening up private practices.