Who an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon is
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
perform surgeries on the face, mouth and jaw. These professionals are dentists
with at least four years of additional surgery training, so they can do
everything from treating facial traumas to fixing cleft lips. They can diagnose
and treat patients with head, neck and oral cancer. They can even administer
anesthesia and perform cosmetic surgeries, such as face-lifts. But even though
their specialty is specific, the technology used to treat and operate on the
face, mouth and jaw is constantly evolving.
“You have to have a commitment to lifelong learning,” says Louis Rafetto, president-elect of the American Association of Maxillofacial Surgeons, chairman of the oral and maxillofacial residency program at Christiana Care Health Systems and a private practitioner in Wilmington, Delaware. In general, Rafetto says, “the surgeries will stay the same, but the way we do them will change.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 19.1 percent employment growth for oral and maxillofacial surgeons between 2016 and 2026. In that period, an estimated 1,300 jobs should open up.
What Type of Education Do Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Need?
oral and maxillofacial surgeons start their education process with a bachelor’s
degree, though technically, these surgeons only need to complete the
prerequisites required by dental school. These vary, but usually include
courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics and
A prospective oral and maxillofacial surgeon will also have to earn a good score on the Dental Admission Test. Depending on the program, dental school takes anywhere from three to five years to complete, after which students will have to get into a highly competitive oral and maxillofacial residency program. These surgeons should also plan on obtaining certification through the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, which is the standard in this field. In order to maintain board certification, there are ongoing recertification and continuing education requirements. The continuing education is crucial because the purview of the profession is evolving. For instance, in years past, treating sleep apnea wasn’t really in the scope of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon; now, Rafetto says it is.