How to Become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
An Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon is a medical career professional who bridges together medicine and dentistry to diagnose and treat patient conditions affecting the face, mouth and jaw. With a unique set of knowledge and skills, they are able to treat salivary gland diseases, remove impacted teeth, identify head and neck cancers, remedy mouth ulcers and perform many other procedures and methods of treatment.
These specialized Surgeons treat facial injuries, head and neck cancers, salivary gland diseases, facial disproportion, facial pain, impacted teeth, cysts and tumors of the jaws as well as numerous problems affecting the oral mucosa such as mouth ulcers and infections.
Entering into a career in healthcare as an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon takes many years to accomplish as the educational requirements alone to pursue this career pathway encompasses at least 12 years. From obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree to completing Dental School and gaining employment, these professionals are constantly learning and evolving their highly trained skills. So, what’s the secret to progressing toward board certification? Determination.
In the case of John F. Landis, DDS, an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon practicing in Jacksonville Beach, FL, his path began as a Registered Nurse, and then in the U.S. Navy as a Nurse Corps Officer. After completing a 3-year service obligation, the Navy sent Landis to dental school on a 4-year, full-paid scholarship, followed by active duty.
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“I paid back my training by serving as the staff Oral Surgeon at Naval Hospital Pensacola,” Landis explained. “I chose to become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon because this allowed me to have an office based practice with reasonable hours, but also to treat more involved surgical cases in a hospital setting.”
Recognizing that others may take a different pathway than his own, Landis suggests that those considering this career should first seek out an Oral Surgeon to shadow at a teaching program or private practice. This way, learners can be sure they are willing to stay determined despite the eventual stressors.
“The most common mistake I see young people make when considering a professional school of any kind, is that they view it as a natural progression from undergraduate studies,” Landis expressed. “Both medical school and dental school are a journey that commonly includes life changing moments like moving away from home, marriage and possibly childbirth. Each of these situations can come with unforeseen stress that can make being in class all day and studying long hours at night very challenging.”
Landis emphasized that the long road will likely include many bumps along the way and several highs and lows. He added that this can be a frustration when you want to spend time with family or relax away from work. He also noted that determination can be the strength needed to power through those challenges.
“My success has been due in large part to my determination,” Landis stressed.
Ultimately, a career as an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon is a dental specialty. While some Dentists choose to pursue additional training to enter this specialty, approximately 80 percent of all Dentists practice general dentistry. General Dentists treat all patients, adults and children, in many different treatment facilities and settings.
While the cost of a dental education is high, industry careers that require fewer years of schooling include that of a Dental Hygienist and Dental Assistant.