Oral Pathology and Biology

Oral pathology and biology specialists treat patients who are suffering from cancers or diseases of the jaw and mouth. Continue reading to learn more about educational and licensing requirements, as well as what you might earn as an oral and maxillofacial specialist.

Are Oral Pathology and Biology for Me?

Career Overview

Oral pathology and biology are related fields. Oral biology uses the sciences, such as molecular biology and immunology, to avoid and cure mouth diseases and developmental defects.

Oral and maxillofacial pathology (OMP) is a specialty within the dentistry field that involves diagnosing and treating diseases of the mouth, jaw and face. Your duties could include examining microscopic biopsies of tissues or treating patients for mouth cancer. As an OMP, you might run your own private practice or biopsy service or work at a hospital. An advanced degree in oral biology might qualify you for a career in research and teaching.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of oral and maxillofacial surgeons, as well as dentists in general, was expected to increase 16% between 2012 and 2022. As of May 2013, OMP surgeons earned a mean yearly salary of $218,960 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Oral Pathology and Biology?

Educational Requirements

In preparation for a career as an OMP, you'll have to fulfill the educational requirements for a general dentist and earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). You'll also have to complete an oral pathology residency program, which usually lasts for three years.

Residency Programs

In an oral and maxillofacial pathology residency program, you may attend lectures or participate in clinical experiences and rotations in anatomic and microscopic pathology or surgical pathology. Autopsies might also be included. As resident, you'll learn how to diagnose mouth diseases by surgically removing tissues and examining them during a biopsy. You'll also find out how to use diagnostic radiology and imaging tools to treat oral diseases.

A master's or doctoral degree in oral pathology and biology or a related field can be earned alongside a dental degree; however, it will also extend your residency requirement. Graduate degree programs in oral biology are also open to students who aren't enrolled in a dental residency program.


After completing an accredited oral pathology residency program and passing a certification test, you'll receive your diplomate credential from the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. To practice, you'll also need to fulfill the requirements for a state-issued license, which include completion of an approved educational program and a passing score on practical and written exams.

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