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Working as an Oral Surgeon

What Does an Oral Surgeon Do

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of the teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.

Duties

Dentists typically do the following:

  • Remove decay from teeth and fill cavities
  • Repair cracked or fractured teeth and remove teeth
  • Place sealants or whitening agents on teeth
  • Administer anesthetics to keep patients from feeling pain during procedures
  • Prescribe antibiotics or other medications
  • Examine x rays of teeth, gums, the jaw, and nearby areas in order to diagnose problems
  • Make models and measurements for dental appliances, such as dentures, to fit patients
  • Teach patients about diets, flossing, the use of fluoride, and other aspects of dental care

Dentists use a variety of equipment, including x-ray machines, drills, mouth mirrors, probes, forceps, brushes, and scalpels. They also use lasers, digital scanners, and other computer technologies, such as digital dentistry.

In addition, dentists in private practice oversee a variety of administrative tasks, including bookkeeping and buying equipment and supplies. They employ and supervise dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental laboratory technicians, and receptionists.

Most dentists are general practitioners and handle a variety of dental needs. Other dentists practice in 1 of 9 specialty areas:

Dental public health specialists promote good dental health and the prevention of dental diseases in specific communities.

Endodontists perform root-canal therapy, by which they remove the nerves and blood supply from injured or infected teeth.

Oral and maxillofacial radiologists diagnose diseases in the head and neck through the use of imaging technologies.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons operate on the mouth, jaws, teeth, gums, neck, and head, performing procedures such as surgically repairing a cleft lip and palate or removing impacted teeth.

Oral pathologists diagnose conditions in the mouth, such as bumps or ulcers, and oral diseases, such as cancer.

Orthodontists straighten teeth by applying pressure to the teeth with braces or other appliances.

Pediatric dentists focus on dentistry for children and special-needs patients.

Periodontists treat the gums and bone supporting the teeth.

Prosthodontists replace missing teeth with permanent fixtures, such as crowns and bridges, or with removable fixtures, such as dentures.

How To Become an Oral Surgeon

Dentists must be licensed in the state(s) in which they work. Licensure requirements vary by state, although candidates usually must graduate from an accredited dental school and pass written and practical exams.

Education

All dental schools require applicants to have completed certain science courses, such as biology and chemistry, before entering dental school. Students typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter most dental programs, although no specific major is required. However, majoring in a science, such as biology, might increase one’s chances of being accepted. Requirements vary by school.

College undergraduates who plan on applying to dental school usually must take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) during their junior year. Admission to dental school can be competitive. Dental schools use these tests along with other factors, such as grade point average, interviews, and recommendations, to admit students into their programs.

Dental school programs typically include coursework in subjects such as local anesthesia, anatomy, periodontics (the study of oral disease and health), and radiology. All programs at dental schools include clinical experience in which students work directly with patients under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

Completion of a dental program results in one of three degrees: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), and Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD). In 2015, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 60 dental school programs.

High school students who want to become dentists should take courses in chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, and math.

Training

All nine dental specialties require dentists to complete additional training before practicing that specialty. This training is usually a 2- to 4-year residency in a program related to their specialty. General dentists do not require any additional training after dental school.

Dentists who want to teach or do research full time usually spend an additional 2 to 5 years in advanced dental training. Many practicing dentists also teach part time, including supervising students in dental school clinics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Dentists must be licensed in the state(s) in which they work. All states require dentists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. Most states require a dentist to have a degree from an accredited dental school and to pass the written and practical National Board Dental Examinations.

In addition, a dentist who wants to practice in one of the nine specialties must have a license in that specialty. Licensure requires the completion of a residency after dental school and, in some cases, the completion of a special state exam.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Dentists must have excellent communication skills. They must be able to communicate effectively with patients, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and receptionists.

Detail oriented. Dentists must be detail oriented so that patients receive appropriate treatments and medications. They also must pay attention to the shape and color of teeth and to the space between them. For example, they may need to closely match a false tooth with a patient’s other teeth.

Dexterity. Dentists must be good at working with their hands. They work with tools in a limited area.

Leadership skills. Most dentists work in their own practice. This requires them to manage and lead a staff.

Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills, including the ability to keep accurate records of patient care, are critical in both medical and business settings.

Patience. Dentists may work for long periods of time with patients who need special attention. Children and patients with a fear of dental work may require a lot of patience.

Physical stamina. Dentists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for long periods.

Problem-solving skills. Dentists need strong problem-solving skills. They must evaluate patients’ symptoms and choose the appropriate treatments.

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Average Salary$273,679
Job Growth Rate7%

Oral Surgeon Career Paths

Top Careers Before Oral Surgeon

Top Careers After Oral Surgeon

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Average Salary for an Oral Surgeon

Oral Surgeons in America make an average salary of $273,679 per year or $132 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $500,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $149,000 per year.
Average Salary
$273,679

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary
Fitchburg, MA
Salary Range222k - 453k$317k$317,169
Columbus, OH
Salary Range228k - 428k$313k$312,943
Juneau, AK
Salary Range218k - 433k$307k$307,477
Richmond, VA
Salary Range218k - 412k$300k$300,165
West Hartford, CT
Salary Range211k - 420k$298k$298,255
Colorado Springs, CO
Salary Range218k - 401k$296k$295,938
$140k
$453k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Oral Surgeon
Oral Surgeon
Renew Anchored Dentures
Renew Anchored Dentures
01/26/2021
01/26/2021
$500,00001/26/2021
$500,000
Oral Surgeon
Oral Surgeon
Renew Anchored Dentures
Renew Anchored Dentures
01/26/2021
01/26/2021
$500,00001/26/2021
$500,000
Oral Surgeon
Oral Surgeon
Renew Anchored Dentures
Renew Anchored Dentures
01/26/2021
01/26/2021
$500,00001/26/2021
$500,000
Oral Surgeon
Oral Surgeon
Renew Anchored Dentures
Renew Anchored Dentures
12/31/2020
12/31/2020
$500,00012/31/2020
$500,000
Oral Surgeon
Oral Surgeon
Renew Anchored Dentures
Renew Anchored Dentures
12/29/2020
12/29/2020
$500,00012/29/2020
$500,000
See More Recent Salaries

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Oral Surgeon Demographics

Gender

female

68.3 %

male

26.9 %

unknown

4.8 %

Ethnicity

White

71.7 %

Asian

14.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

8.2 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

68.4 %

Portuguese

5.3 %

German

5.3 %
See More Demographics

Oral Surgeon Education

Degrees

Bachelors

18.9 %

Certificate

16.7 %

Associate

16.7 %

Top Colleges for Oral Surgeons

1. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

2. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

New Brunswick, NJ • Public

In-State Tuition
$14,974
Enrollment
35,656

3. Augusta University

Augusta, GA • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,604
Enrollment
5,146

4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Public

In-State Tuition
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

6. Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, OH • Private

In-State Tuition
$49,042
Enrollment
5,131

7. University of Washington

Seattle, WA • Public

In-State Tuition
$11,207
Enrollment
30,905

8. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238

9. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

10. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN • Public

In-State Tuition
$14,760
Enrollment
31,451
See More Education Info
Job type you want
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Part Time
Internship
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Top Skills For an Oral Surgeon

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 31.0% of oral surgeons listed patient care on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and detail oriented are important as well.

Best States For an Oral Surgeon

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an oral surgeon. The best states for people in this position are North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, and Montana. Oral surgeons make the most in North Dakota with an average salary of $222,309. Whereas in South Dakota and Nevada, they would average $221,711 and $221,553, respectively. While oral surgeons would only make an average of $221,039 in Montana, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. North Dakota

Total Oral Surgeon Jobs:
6
Highest 10% Earn:
$292,000
Location Quotient:
2.23
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. South Dakota

Total Oral Surgeon Jobs:
4
Highest 10% Earn:
$292,000
Location Quotient:
1.82
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Nevada

Total Oral Surgeon Jobs:
10
Highest 10% Earn:
$292,000
Location Quotient:
1.52
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Oral Surgeon Employers

1. American Dental Group
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$228,179
Oral Surgeons Hired: 
6+
2. KOOL Smiles
3.6
Avg. Salary: 
$222,069
Oral Surgeons Hired: 
5+
3. United States Navy
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$227,269
Oral Surgeons Hired: 
5+
4. Pacific Dental Services
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$221,493
Oral Surgeons Hired: 
3+
5. Western Dental Services
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$200,626
Oral Surgeons Hired: 
2+
6. Perfect Teeth
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$229,615
Oral Surgeons Hired: 
2+