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Rarely in the history of the dental profession have dental students been presented with so many opportunities to build on their dental school training and skills. As their knowledge and desire to explore these opportunities grow, many dental students think about pursuing specialty training. For a growing number of these students, the broad scope of practice and the professional satisfaction offered by the dental specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery present a unique way to maximize their training and make a difference in the lives of their patients.
Of the nine recognized dental specialties, oral and maxillofacial surgery has the broadest scope of practice. The ADA’s definition of the specialty recognizes the oral and maxillofacial surgeon’s expertise in the “diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects involving both the functional and esthetic aspects of the hard and soft tissues of the face, mouth and jaws.” OMSs surgically treat a variety of conditions and perform procedures ranging from third molar and dental implant surgeries to corrective jaw surgery; treatment of oral, head and neck cancer, TMJ disorders, facial trauma, and sleep-related breathing disorders; cleft lip and palate repair, and facial cosmetic surgery. The possibilities are limited only by your interests.
Dental specialties require advanced knowledge and skills resulting in additional training and schooling.
After dental school, OMS residents enter a hospital-based residency program lasting a minimum of four years. Many OMSs opt for a six-year, dual-degree program where they also earn a medical degree. As residents, OMSs complete a minimum 5-month rotation on the medical anesthesiology service during which they become competent in evaluating patients for anesthesia, delivering the anesthetic, and monitoring post-anesthetic patients. Additionally, they train alongside medical residents in such areas as general surgery, trauma surgery, anesthesia, plastic surgery and otolaryngology. Some also choose to participate in a fellowship program addressing a particular area of the specialty’s scope.
Training in a hospital-based residency program, OMS residents accrue limited or no additional education-related debt. They are paid a stipend throughout their residency, which is not the case with all dental specialties.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery offers so many ways to make a lasting difference in a patient’s life with a choice of practice sites that includes private practice, academia, the military and public service, dental research and industry.
OMSs’ knowledge and expertise uniquely qualify them to diagnose and treat a number of functional and esthetic conditions in the maxillofacial area, and allow them to do extremely complex and life-changing work. As an OMS is private practice, for instance, you will be professionally satisfied and your schedule will never be routine. A typical day may include corrective jaw procedures, surgeries to improve sleep-related breathing disorders, remove third molars, place dental implants, and biopsy lesions for oral cancer.
For many oral and maxillofacial surgeons, “amazing” and “altruistic” define their way of life. For example, the most extensive face transplant to date was performed by OMS Dr. Eduardo D. Rodriguez who treated an injured volunteer firefighter. OMS Dr. Joseph McCain transformed the face of a Haitian girl with a life-saving surgery. Dr. Robert Ferdowsmakan repaired an 11-year-old-boy’s face after he was attacked by his family’s dog. OMS doctors aboard Mercy Ships removed a 16 pound tumor from a Madagascar man’s face. Army surgeon and OMS Dr. Robert Hale responded to facial reconstruction needs due to war injuries. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Gary Parker, chief medical officer of the Africa Mercy, has volunteered his services for more than 20 years to repair the faces of the continent’s neediest men, women and children whose lives have been ravaged by disease, congenital abnormalities and injury.
Are you ready to explore the specialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery?
To learn more about oral and maxillofacial surgery and see how your knowledge and skills align with this exciting dental specialty, contact Ms. Penny Evans at the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
Once you are ready to apply for an OMS residency training program, be sure to take the first step and register for the NBME® Comprehensive Basic Science Examination offered by the AAOMS.
For more information about Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, visit the dental student section on AAOMS.org.
~American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons