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Dental Radiologist: Salary, Duties and Requirements

Dental radiologists, also known as oral radiologists or oral and maxillofacial radiologists, are dentists who specialize in using various radiographic and digital images to diagnose and treat patients. Dental school graduates must complete a clinical residency in order to become certified radiologists.

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Salary and Outlook for Dental Radiologists

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide salary information for dental radiologists specifically, all of these professionals are trained dentists, and the median salary for dentists was $149,310 as of 2012. The BLS projected a favorable outlook for all dentists for the 2012-2022 decade, with an expected 16% increase in available jobs.

Dental Radiologist Job Duties

Dental radiologists are trained to use diagnostic tools, such as X-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) scans of the head, neck and jaw areas, to diagnose and treat their patients. They sometimes work in conjunction with dentists to conduct clinical exams to find and evaluate diseases, tumors or conditions, such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder). They also might be called upon to refer patients to oral surgeons or to work with those injured in accidents.

As digital imaging becomes more prevalent, dental radiologists likely will need to become proficient with programs that allow X-rays to be digitally uploaded to computers. Also, the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology (AAOMR) reported that, as of 2010, dental radiologists were in high demand as professors in teaching hospitals and dental schools (www.aaomr.org).

Education and Career Requirements for Dental Radiologists

Aspiring dental radiologists must complete an accredited 4-year dental school program before they can specialize. According to the American Dental Association, candidates may take the state or national board exams and attain licensure only after attaining a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree (www.ada.org). Like other dentists, potential dental radiologists should enjoy working with others, be computer literate and possess an astute visual memory and high level of manual dexterity.

Dentists undertake additional clinical studies in oral and maxillofacial radiology for at least two more years. A 2-year certificate program can be taken as a stand-alone program or as part of a 3- to 4-year graduate degree program that prepares graduates for teaching and researching careers. Clinical courses might include diagnostic techniques, special procedures and radiation biology. Continuing education classes in oral and maxillofacial pathology often cover the latest treatment methods.

Once a clinical residency is completed, specialists may take a voluntary certification examination offered by the AAOMR. Some states require additional radiology permits to practice.

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