How to Become an Oral Surgeon

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Oral surgeons are specialized dentists who operate and treat diseases and injuries of the mouth, jaw, neck, face and sinuses. Also referred to as maxillofacial surgeons, they undergo extensive training beyond college, including dental school and medical school. While some work in private practices, others work in hospitals and specialized clinics.

Undergraduate Degree and Preparation

  • While no specific undergraduate degree is required for admission to dental school, the American Dental Association recommends that students take classes in general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology with laboratory work, physics and English. Individual dental schools may have other requirements. Applicants are also required to take the Dental Admission Test at least one year in advance.

Dental School Training

  • Dental school training takes four years and results in either a doctor of dental surgery or doctor of dental medicine degree. The training for both degrees is identical but different school grant different titles. Coursework at all dental schools must adhere to curriculum guidelines from the ADA, including, among other areas, training in oral microbiology, dental materials, endodontics, infectious diseases, pain management and restorative dentistry.

Post-Dental School Training

  • Upon completing dental school, aspiring dental surgeons enter a six-year program, such as the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/MD Program at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to the coursework required of medical students, those enrolled in this program spend up to six months in each of the first five years and the entire sixth year performing oral surgery.

Licensure and Practicing

  • To practice as an oral surgeon, candidates need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, which is the three-step exam required of medical doctors, the National Board Dental Examinations, as well as state licensing exams. Most oral surgeons also apply for admitting privileges at hospitals. Some also work as part of large dental practices that include general dentists and oral radiologists

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