How Can I Become an Oral Surgeon?

Research what it takes to become an oral surgeon. Learn about education requirements, clinical training and licensure to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Oral Surgeon?

Oral surgeons perform surgeries of the mouth, including dental-related surgery. They may do root canals, tooth extractions, implants, jaw realignments, and lip, tongue, or gum surgery. Some dentists make take on this role, given they have the credentials for it. A license must be obtained for dentists to operate in one of the specialties, which would include oral surgery.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming an oral surgeon.

Degree Required Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS); some oral surgeons also hold a Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Training Required Oral and maxillofacial surgery residency
Key Responsibilities Examine patient and diagnose condition; order and analyze diagnostic tests and determine best procedure for patient; perform surgery to correct defects or repair damage due to injury or disease; monitor patient post-op
Licensure or Certification All states require dentists to be licensed; in some states, oral surgeons also need to be licensed in the oral and maxillofacial surgery specialty
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 18%
Average Annual Salary (2015)* $233,900

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Are the First Steps to Become an Oral Surgeon?

Dental schools often require a certain amount of college coursework completed before you apply, and some prefer that you already hold a bachelor's degree. Prior to applying for dental school, you must also take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). Your DAT score, grade point average and recommendations typically factor into the selection process for general dentistry programs. After completing a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) program, you can apply to an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program.

What Types of Residency Programs Are Available?

Residency programs in this specialty typically last between four and six years, with the former generally awarding a certificate in oral and maxillofacial surgery and the latter often culminating in an MD. No matter which type of program you choose, your coursework will consist of a combination of classroom study and clinical practice. Topics specific to training in oral and maxillofacial surgery include:

  • Maxillofacial injuries
  • Dental implants
  • Reconstruction techniques
  • Oral surgery in children
  • Maxillofacial oncology

How Do I Get Licensed?

After completing a DDS program, you'll be eligible for licensing, which is required in all states. Besides graduating from an accredited dental program, licensing typically requires passage of skills assessment examinations. Most oral and maxillofacial surgery residency programs require that you be eligible for general dentistry licensing before you can be admitted to the program.

Depending on your state, you might also need to apply for specialty dentistry licensing after completing an oral and maxillofacial surgery program.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Those who don't want to become full-fledged dentists may consider a career as a dental hygienist. They clean patient's teeth, look for diseases, and educate them on oral health. They typically need an associate's degree. Outside the dental field, other medical jobs that require higher professional degrees include physicians and general surgeons. A physician is a medical doctor that may examine patients for illnesses, injuries, or irregularities; write prescriptions; keep medical charts; etc. They also give patient's health care guidance.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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