Is becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon right for me?
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How to become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon requires a significant amount of education and training. The following is a detailed description of the steps one needs to take to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon:
- Obtain a bachelor's Degree: The first step to becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is to obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. The degree can be in any field, but it is recommended to take pre-medical courses, including biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
- Take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT): The DAT is a standardized test that measures general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information, and perceptual ability. This test is required by most dental schools as part of the application process.
- Attend Dental School: After completing a Bachelor's degree and passing the DAT, the next step is to attend an accredited dental school. Dental school typically takes four years to complete, and the curriculum includes both classroom instruction and clinical practice.
- Complete a Residency Program: After graduating from dental school, an aspiring oral and maxillofacial surgeon must complete a residency program in oral and maxillofacial surgery. This residency program typically lasts four to six years, during which the resident receives advanced training in oral and maxillofacial surgery. The residency program includes rotations in anesthesia, general surgery, and other medical specialties.
- Obtain a License: After completing the residency program, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon must obtain a license to practice in their state. The requirements for obtaining a license vary by state but typically include passing a written and practical exam.
- Optional Fellowship Training: After completing the residency program and obtaining a license, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may choose to pursue additional fellowship training in a specific area of oral and maxillofacial surgery. Fellowship training typically lasts one to two years and provides additional specialized training.
- Continuing Education: To maintain their license, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon must participate in continuing education courses and stay up to date with the latest advancements in their field.
Board certification for oral and maxillofacial surgeons is a voluntary process that demonstrates an oral and maxillofacial surgeon's commitment to their profession and their ability to provide high-quality patient care. Board certification is not required to practice as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, but it can be a significant accomplishment and can improve career opportunities.
The American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (ABOMS) is the organization that certifies oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States. Board certification by the ABOMS is valid for ten years.
The certification process includes the following steps:
- Eligibility: To be eligible for board certification, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon must have completed an accredited residency program in oral and maxillofacial surgery and have a valid and unrestricted license to practice dentistry or medicine.
- Written Examination: The first step in the certification process is a written examination. The exam consists of 300 multiple-choice questions and covers a range of topics, including anesthesia, pain management, surgical techniques, and patient care.
- Oral Examination: After passing the written examination, the next step is the oral examination. The oral examination is a clinical examination in which the candidate demonstrates their surgical skills and knowledge of oral and maxillofacial surgery.
- Continuing Education: To maintain their board certification, oral and maxillofacial surgeons must participate in continuing education courses and meet the ABOMS's continuing education requirements.
Fellowship programs typically last one to two years, depending on the area of specialization. They include both classroom instruction and clinical practice, and fellows work closely with experienced surgeons in the field. Fellowship programs can help oral and maxillofacial surgeons develop advanced surgical skills and gain expertise in a specific area of oral and maxillofacial surgery.
To qualify for a fellowship program, oral and maxillofacial surgeons must have completed their residency program and obtained a license to practice in their state. Fellowship programs typically require a competitive application process, which may include a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and an interview.
Some common areas of fellowship training for oral and maxillofacial surgeons include:
- Craniofacial Surgery: This fellowship program provides advanced training in the surgical treatment of craniofacial deformities, such as cleft lip and palate, craniosynostosis, and other congenital anomalies.
- Head and Neck Oncology and Reconstruction: This fellowship program focuses on the surgical treatment of head and neck cancer, including tumor removal and reconstruction of the affected area.
- Pediatric Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: This fellowship program provides specialized training in the surgical treatment of children with congenital and acquired oral and maxillofacial conditions.
- TMJ Surgery: This fellowship program provides advanced training in the surgical treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders, including joint replacement and reconstruction.
- Aesthetic and Cosmetic Surgery: This fellowship program provides specialized training in the surgical treatment of facial cosmetic and aesthetic concerns, such as rhinoplasty, facelift, and chin augmentation.