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Oral Surgeon Training Programs and Requirements

Aspiring oral surgeons receive training through Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), internship and residency programs. Oral surgeons diagnose and treat diseases, injuries and defects in the mouth, jaws, neck, face and skull regions.

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Essential Information

Prior to starting a D.D.S. program, students must complete a bachelor's degree and earn acceptable scores on the Dental Admission 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.

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. After that, licensure must be obtained to begin practicing in the field.


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Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.)

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.

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.

The three years in an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency consist 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, managing outpatient clinics, and teach first, second and third year residents. Students looking to get a D.D.S. can expect to take courses that include:

  • Biochemistry
  • General biology
  • Physics
  • Organic chemistry
  • English composition

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS states that oral surgeons as of May 2015 make an average annual salary of $233,900. From 2014 to 2024, job opportunities for oral surgeons are expected to grow 18%, according to the BLS. This growth is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

Continuing Education Information

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.

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.

Students who want to be oral surgeons must go through an extensive and thorough amount of training that includes a 3- to 4-year doctoral program, a 1-year internship and 3-year residency. These programs combine lectures and hands-on training, and upon completion, students can become licensed, board certified oral surgeons.

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