Oral Surgeons


Exploring this Job

There are many ways to explore this career. First, learn industry lingo by visiting https://www.aaoms.org/education-research/dental-students/glossary-of-terms. Then, check out the American Dental Association’s job exploration Web site, http://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/be-a-dentist, for more information on the benefits of a career in the field and tips for high school and college students. Finally, participate in an information interview or job shadowing experience to learn more about careers in dentistry and oral and maxillofacial surgery. Here are some questions from the American Dental Education Association that you should ask during the experience:

  • What do you like most about your work?
  • What do you find challenging about your profession?
  • Would you still pursue dentistry if you could go back in time?
  • What are some of the highlights of your work?
  • What gets you excited about coming to work every day? If you were not practicing dentistry, what would you be doing?
  • If you could change something about the practice of dentistry, what would it be?
  • What did you think about your dental school experience? Do you have any advice? What was the most challenging aspect of dental school? 

The Job

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases and conditions, including cleft lip and palate; jaw growth problems; misaligned jaw; facial injuries (such as facial lacerations, intra-oral lacerations, and fractured facial bones); and head, neck and oral cancers. They diagnose and treat infections of the oral cavity, salivary glands, jaws, and neck; treat problems affecting the oral mucosa, such as mouth ulcers and infections; perform surgeries that remove tumors and impacted, damaged, and non-restorable teeth; restore form and function by moving skin, bone, nerves, and other tissues from other parts of the body to reconstruct the jaws and face; and place dental implants. Some oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform cosmetic surgeries. Others help patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

Surgeons are trained to administer conscious and full sedation for patients who require it. Dental anesthesiologists administer anesthesia in some practices.

In some cases, oral and maxillofacial surgeons work closely with other professionals, such as restorative dentists and orthodontists, to plan treatment.

Related careers include oral and maxillofacial pathologists, who investigate the causes, processes, and effects of these diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions, and oral and maxillofacial radiologists, dentists who have additional advanced specialty training in radiology of the teeth and jaws.