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Have you been told you need to see an oral surgeon? There so many specialties in dentistry that it can be hard to keep them all straight. To help you understand what kind of professional you’re going to see, we’ve put together everything you need to know about oral surgeons.

What Do Oral Surgeons Do?

If you had your wisdom teeth removed, it was most likely done by an oral surgeon. For many people, this type of procedure is usually the first interaction they have with us.

We go by another name sometimes. You might hear us called “maxillofacial surgeons.” “Maxillofacial” is a word that means “having to do with the jaw or face.” We specialize in the treatment of people with jaw, facial and oral injuries, illnesses and malformations.

You might see oral surgeons for:

  • Tooth removal
  • Dental implants
  • Soft tissue removal
  • Removal of tumors and cysts
  • Fractured teeth and jawbone repair
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Problems with TMJ and facial pain
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Reconstructive surgery after a facial injury
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate

Many of us are also able to administer anesthesia and have had extensive training on giving it to patients.

What Makes Us Different From Dentists?

You don’t usually walk into a clinic and get an appointment right away with an oral surgeon. You would visit a dentist first. Dentists perform general services such as exams, fillings, crowns, gum care and more. If your dentist believes the dental work you need is outside their normal area of practice, they will refer you to an oral surgeon.

How Much Schooling and Experience is Required?

The process of becoming an oral surgeon is a long and arduous one.

Undergraduate Education. While the prerequisites to enter dental school vary depending on the program, many oral surgeons obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree before entering.
Dental School. Dental school lasts another four years. Dental school graduates earn a DMD or DDS degree. These two degrees are the same; the type of degree awarded depends on the school.
Residency Training. Following dental school, an oral surgeon completes a four to six-year residency training program. This phase lasts six years if the surgeon decides to get a medical degree and four without.
Certification. To be certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, surgeons will take a specialty examination.
Professional Development. To remain certified and do our best work, we must stay up to date with current medical practices.

That all adds up to 12 to 14 years of schooling alone!

In addition to these steps, an oral surgeon can specialize in areas such as craniofacial surgery, trauma injuries, pediatric maxillofacial surgery, cosmetic facial surgery, and head and neck cancer treatment.

What Salary Can an Oral Surgeon Earn?

The average salary of an oral surgeon is around $220,000. Many surgeons make more than this, and salary projections continue to grow.

What is it Like Working as an Oral Surgeon?

Many of us work in offices, hospitals and outpatient care centers. Some of us choose to start our own clinics and become self-employed. We work full time, sometimes with extended hours if necessary. Some surgeons need to be on call, especially if they work in a hospital setting.

We spend a lot of our work hours on our feet as we treat patients and perform surgeries. It is important that we learn to stay calm and handle stress because the nature of our jobs can be fast-paced and stressful at times.

A good oral surgeon possesses leadership skills and is detail oriented. Oral surgery is complex. To do the best job possible, we need to make sure we’ve considered every aspect of possible diagnoses and plan the treatment accordingly. Emergencies happen, so we need to be flexible and cool under pressure.

What Makes Oral Surgery a Great Career?

The greatest aspect of working as an oral surgeon is having the ability to improve the quality of life for our patients. A patient who has incurred a facial injury from an accident can have their appearance restored through reconstructive surgery. Patients who experience pain can have their pain alleviated and return to a normal life. We give people the opportunity to eat and talk where these basic human functions may have been difficult or impossible for them before.

Improving the lives of people is what makes this career rewarding. It takes a lot of time and dedication to get here, but we look forward to helping people smile — literally.

At Dental Specialty Associates, we offer a variety of specialty services. Our offices are comfortable, our staff is friendly, and we listen to what you have to say. If you have concerns about your oral health, contact us today to schedule an appointment.