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Oral Surgeon Training Programs and Requirements

Oral surgeons, also referred to oral and maxillofacial surgeons, diagnose and treat diseases, injuries and defects in the mouth, jaws, neck, face and skull regions. Common treatments include the removal of impacted teeth, reconstructive surgery, lip reconstruction and insertion of dental implants.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

Prior to starting dental school, students must complete a bachelor's degree and complete the Dental Admissions Test. Admissions in the field can be competitive, so most students apply to several dental schools. Coursework in the biological sciences is highly recommended for aspiring dentists during the undergraduate years.

Formal Education

Aspiring oral and maxillofacial surgeons complete dental school, a general surgery internship year, and then complete an additional three years of specialized training. The full course of training requires approximately 7-8 years following completion of the undergraduate degree.

Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.)

A dental program usually requires 3-4 years. Graduates are prepared to provide comprehensive dental care through a curriculum including biochemistry, anatomy, pharmacology and physiology. The third and fourth years are focused upon clinical training. Completion of the program leads to the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. In the fourth year, if students decide to specialize, they apply and interview at residency programs.

Surgery Internship

A general surgery internship is a required component of oral and maxillofacial surgery training. Interns spend several rotations acquiring experience in general surgery, anesthesia and internal medicine.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency

The three years in an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency consists of rotations in otolaryngology, neurosurgery, and intensive care in addition to the core studies. Responsibility progressively increases throughout the program, and residents take call, participate in educational activities such as conferences, lectures and rounds. During the final year, residents act as chief of the OMS service, manage outpatient clinics and teach first, second and third year residents.

Licenses and Certifications

Each state maintains its own licensing requirements for dental professionals, but most require completion of 1-3 years of residency training to meet the eligibility requirements for physician licensure. State licensure is separate from board certification processes, which are specialty-specific. Oral and maxillofacial board certification examinations are administered by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Workshops and Seminars

Professional oral and maxillofacial surgery organizations offer annual medical conferences, usually lasting from 3-4 days. Participants may train in new skills or attend lectures on new treatment modalities. Usually, CME credits are awarded for participation in these events.

Additional Professional Development

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons may apply to various professional organizations for membership. Services provided to members include participation in educational meetings, career planning support and resource materials. Additionally, some organizations offer funding for research projects.

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