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Oral Surgeon Training Programs and Schools

A sub-field of dentistry, oral surgery focuses on correcting illnesses or disorders of the head, neck and jaw. Continue reading to learn more about the training required to become an oral surgeon and some schools where it is provided.

What You Need to Know

Oral surgeons perform surgery on the mouth, jaws and face of patients who have damage due to injury or deformities. Eight years of dental school and residency is required before licensure.

Responsibilities Examine patients, make diagnosis, perform surgical reconstruction of damage or abnormalities
Training Four years of dental school followed by four years of residency
Licensing Licensure is required by all states

What Does an Oral Surgeon Do?

As an oral surgeon, sometimes referred to as an 'oral and maxillofacial surgeon', you work to diagnose and surgically correct disorders in the hard and soft tissues of the maxillofacial and oral areas. This area includes the mouth, jaws and face. You may reconstruct bone, fix trauma to the jaw or replace teeth. Sometimes, your treatments will be esthetically oriented, but other times they will be functionally oriented.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 6,800 oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the nation in 2016. At that time, these surgeons earned a median annual salary of more than $208,000.

What Training Do I Need?

Oral surgeons complete dental school plus several years of medical residency rotations. Dental school consists of four years of study, the last two years of which consist of residency rotations. Therefore, in an oral surgery training program, you complete a total of six years of rotations, two years during your final two years of medical school and four years after completing medical school. As such, if you attend a program in conjunction with dental school, your training lasts for a total of about six years. If you attend post-dental school graduation, your training lasts about four years.

There are more than 60 dental schools in the U.S., including:

  • Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine
  • University of California San Francisco School of Dentristy
  • The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry
  • New York University College of Dentistry
  • Oregon Health Sciences University School of Dentistry
  • University of Washington School of Dentistry
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine
  • Rutgers School of Dental Medicine

What Would I Learn in a Program?

Coursework you could expect to take in a DMD program includes classes in biology, physiology, anatomy, microbiology and immunology. Other courses common to DMD curricula include:

  • Dental anatomy
  • Oral pathology
  • Periodontology
  • Dental surgery
  • Dental occlusion
  • Oral radiology
  • Management of dental pain

The residency rotation portion of a program includes experiences in general surgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine and plastic surgery. You also complete internal medicine and otolaryngology rotations. In a Ph.D. program, you conduct research and write a dissertation.

What Happens After I Finish Dental School?

Upon completion of a dental school program, you would be awarded either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree as well as an Oral and Maxillofacial certificate. Some programs also allow you to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Oral Biology, Oral Science, or Oral and Craniofacial Sciences. Mainly, those seeking a career in academics or dental research pursue a doctorate in this field. In Ph.D. programs you could study for 4-8 years, depending on the specific program.

Do I Need to be Licensed?

All dentists must be licensed to practice. To become licensed, you must graduate from an accredited dental school and pass the National Board of Dental Examinations. The American Dental Association accredits oral surgery training programs.

To work as an oral surgeon you must be board certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. To become certified, you must pass an exam.