Career Development

Oral Surgeon Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Oral surgeons are highly specialized medical professionals who have the skills and training to perform a range of surgical procedures on the mouth, jaws, and face. Because they’re so focused on a specific area of the body, oral surgeons have particular expertise in their respective specialties as well as an intimate knowledge of related anatomy and physiology.

Oral surgeons are highly specialized medical professionals who have the skills and training to perform a range of surgical procedures on the mouth, jaws, and face. Because they’re so focused on a specific area of the body, oral surgeons have particular expertise in their respective specialties as well as an intimate knowledge of related anatomy and physiology.

In their jobs as oral surgeons, they may perform any number of procedures from simple tooth extractions to complex reconstructive surgeries. They also commonly provide follow up care for these procedures and work with patients on a one-on-one basis to assist them with any physical or psychological issues that arise after surgery.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be an oral surgeon and what it takes to become one yourself.

Oral Surgeon Job Duties

The duties of oral surgeons include the following:

  • Determining appropriate treatment options for patients with oral problems, such as examining dental records, diagnosing medical conditions, and recommending follow-up care
  • Administering anesthesia during surgery and performing intraoperative procedures such as bone grafts, sinus lifts, and other procedures to increase the chances of a successful surgery
  • Performing surgery to remove or repair teeth, often under local anesthesia or conscious sedation
  • Determining whether a tooth can be saved or if it should be extracted and providing patients with information about what will happen during their surgery
  • Prescribing dental materials for fillings, grafts of gums, dentures, crowns on teeth, bridges on teeth, etc.
  • Preparing models of the upper and lower jaws for surgical procedures
  • Suggesting preventative measures and appropriate use of fluoride applications and other dental products and services to help patients maintain excellent dental health at home

Oral Surgeon Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for oral surgeons is $225,000. The top earners are making more than 450,000 per year. Those who work in private practice tend to earn the highest salaries.

Job opportunities for oral surgeons are expected to decline over the next decade. This is due to increased competition from general dentists who can provide care at a lower cost.

Oral Surgeon Job Requirements

The requirements for an oral surgeon are as follows:

Education: Oral surgeons must earn a dental degree from an accredited dental college. To become an oral surgeon, they must complete four years of dental school. During their dental school education, they must complete courses in oral and maxillofacial surgery, pathology, dentistry, radiology, orthodontics, oral medicine, pharmacology and periodontics. In order to attend dental school, candidates are generally required to have previously earned a bachelor’s degree.

Training: After graduating from dental school, oral surgeons must complete a dental residency program. These programs are supervised by a licensed dentist and allow students to gain hands-on experience working in a variety of clinical settings. Oral surgeons also work closely with residents in other specialties, which allows them to learn how to work as part of a team.

Certifications & Licenses: All states require oral surgeons to obtain a license to practice. This license is generally obtained through the state board of dentistry. The requirements for obtaining a license vary from state to state, but candidates are generally required to hold a dental degree and complete a residency program.

Oral Surgeon Skills

Not everyone is capable of being an oral surgeon. Some inherent skills and traits can make all the difference between success and burning out.

Surgical skills: Oral surgeons perform surgical procedures on patients, which requires skill and knowledge of dental surgery.

Patience: An oral surgeon must have patience when dealing with patients, especially those who are anxious about their upcoming surgery.

Decision-making skills: Oral surgeons need to make quick decisions during surgery, such as what course of action to take when complications arise. 

Empathy: An oral surgeon must be able to empathize with his or her patients’ concerns, especially those who are apprehensive about having surgery.

Time management: An oral surgeon must be able to manage time well in order to schedule appointments and perform surgeries efficiently.

Confidence: An oral surgeon must possess confidence in his or her abilities as a professional, as well as the ability to convey that confidence to patients. 

Oral Surgeon Work Environment

Oral surgeons work in hospitals or private dental offices. They typically work 40-50 hours a week; however, shifts can be very long when there are emergencies.

The demands of this job are high because they must handle emergencies that can occur at any time. They also must be very strong to withstand the physical stress of operating on patients’ mouths and jaws. Oral surgeons have to stand for long periods each day as they perform their duties.

Oral Surgeon Career Path

Getting Started

Many in this profession start in hospital operating rooms, where they learn the skills and attitudes necessary for success. Long hours and hard work are the norm in the early stages. Some choose to enter a related field such as dentistry or maxillofacial surgery. Ten percent leave the profession altogether after two years.

Five Years On The Job

Five-year veterans can expect to be making significant contributions to their specialty and enjoying significant satisfaction from their work. They have established a solid reputation, and usually have a staff of assistants. Many oral surgeons enjoy a very high income. Some have become involved in research or have started their own businesses, while others have become teachers of the craft.

Ten Years On The Job

The majority of oral surgeons have either established their own practices or are on the threshold of doing so. Those who have been successful continue to enjoy a very high income, although it may be accompanied by long hours and considerable stress. A few oral surgeons use their substantial experience to move into other areas of medicine. A few others move into teaching and research at universities and dental schools. But for most ten-year veterans, success means establishing a comfortable practice with a loyal clientele and enjoying the fruits of hard work. Satisfaction is high for those who have worked hard to get there.

Oral Surgeon Trends

Here are three trends influencing how oral surgeons work. Oral surgeons will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increased Focus on Preventative Care

As more people are choosing to work later in life, oral surgeons will have to focus on providing care for seniors. For example, in 2018 there were almost 20 million workers over the age of 65, and that number is expected to rise by 8% in just five years. As these seniors continue working well into their retirement years, oral surgeons will need to find ways to offer preventative dental care services to reduce the risk of tooth loss or tooth decay in patients who may be missing teeth due to periodontal disease. 

The Rise of Mobile Dental Care

Mobile dental care is gaining in popularity due to the benefits it can have on patients who might otherwise avoid the dentist altogether.

Dentists and hygienists can bring their services directly to patients’ homes, making it easier for people to maintain healthy oral hygiene and schedule regular checkups. This also provides a way for patients to easily get in touch with a dentist when they have urgent issues that need to be addressed right away.

The Impact of Technology on Oral Surgery

In recent years, advancements in technology have made oral surgery safer and more effective than ever before. In fact, several new technologies, such as the Bionator Laser have been developed to allow oral surgeons to perform surgeries with greater precision and accuracy than they were previously able to. As a result, many patients are choosing to have oral surgery. 

How to Become a Oral Surgeon

1. Planning Your Career

When considering a career as an oral surgeon, it is important to know that the field requires significant schooling and years of practice. Though not required, additional training can help you become a specialist in areas like implant dentistry or orthodontics.

While practicing as an oral surgeon, it’s important to have strong organizational skills and a high level of self-discipline; you will be responsible for managing a team of professionals and providing accurate diagnoses and treatments to patients. If you want to pursue this career path, you should take the time to understand what is involved before making any commitments.

If you’re unsure about the best way to prepare for a career as an oral surgeon, consider talking to someone who has been in the field for a while. He or she will be able to offer some valuable insight into the day-to-day work environment and what sort of skills are most important for success.

2. Writing a Resume

The best resumes for oral surgeons should emphasize their skill and precision with a scalpel. All of your previous positions should be listed in reverse chronological order, including details such as the type of procedures you performed, how long they took, and any challenges that you encountered.

In addition to describing your work history, it is important to highlight any other skills you have related to dentistry. Many oral surgeons are also skilled at other procedures such as reconstructive surgery or orthodontics. If this is the case for you, be sure to include all relevant experience in your resume. Highlight how many years of schooling you’ve completed, including undergraduate degrees and med school, along with any specialized training programs, certifications, or awards you may have received.

3. Applying for Jobs

If you’re looking for a job as an Oral Surgeon, we recommend visiting the website of the American Dental Association. They can guide you at any stage of your career. 

If you’ve already obtained your dentistry degree, it may also be helpful to join the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, which is an organization for oral surgeons, dental surgeons, and students who are looking to advance their careers. Attending medical conferences can also be useful in terms of networking with potential employers and colleagues.

4. Ace the Interview

The oral surgeon interview process can be long and grueling. Oral surgeon employers will look for tenacity, the ability to advocate for patients, and a good bedside manner. 

Prepare for the interview by researching the field. Know what procedures are involved in oral surgery, and be prepared to discuss them coherently. For example, if you’re interviewing for a position that deals with cleft palate repair, be sure to ask yourself how you would complete this procedure if asked during the interview. 

Remember that the interviewer is trying to figure out how you handle yourself under pressure, so take a deep breath and think before making any rash decisions or statements. Also, remember that the job requires a high level of interpersonal interaction with patients as well as doctors and nurses, and being too soft-spoken or shy can be detrimental in this type of environment.

Be sure to let your interviewer know about any volunteer opportunities or research projects that you have been involved in as well.


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