For soon-to-be or recent dental school grads with aspirations beyond the typical scope of most dental specialties, oral and maxillofacial surgery jobs (OMFS) might be an enticing prospect. Many people associate OMFS with routine surgical interventions like wisdom tooth extractions that can’t be handled in a general dental environment. While extractions can certainly be a frequent part of your schedule, oral and maxillofacial surgery goes far beyond the average dental job. Here are a few things you should know about a career in oral and maxillofacial surgery.
1. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Jobs Need True Specialists
There are aspects of many dental specialties that can be performed by general dentists without the need for extra years of schooling. Anyone with a dental degree and a license can work on kids, even if they’re not a pediatric dentist. General dentists can take classes to stretch their scope of practice to include implant placement, simple endodontics, and even some orthodontia. Unlike other specialties, oral and maxillofacial surgery is somewhat immune to the slow blurring of lines between practice types.
Because maxillofacial surgeons perform procedures that most practices aren’t equipped for, OMFS has fairly good job stability. It’s a narrower field than general dentistry, so you may be slightly limited to maxillofacial job selection in terms of where you want to practice. However, while you may not have the multitude of locations and practice types to choose from, you’ll be in demand and shouldn’t have trouble finding a job or building your own practice.
As an OMFS, you’ll have skills that go far beyond most dentists. OMFS performs a variety of corrective jaw surgeries and treats facial deformities and severe malocclusion that can’t be corrected with orthodontics alone. You may be called upon to correct facial deformities and possibly treat cancer. You’ll be extensively trained in anesthesia including airway maintenance and even intubation.
Depending on your sub-specialty and where you work, you’ll see a wide variety of case types working as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. After completing your OMFS residency, you can opt to specialize even further with a fellowship. It should be noted, however, that you don’t need a subspecialty fellowship to practice as a maxillofacial surgeon. Even without a subspecialty, you’ll enjoy a wide spectrum of work. In general, oral and maxillofacial surgery jobs focus on the teeth and temporomandibular joint and may involve anything from urgent trauma treatment in a hospital setting, to outpatient surgery in a private practice.
2. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Jobs Have Extensive Requirements
Oral and maxillofacial surgery requires an additional 4 years of residency after dental school and licensure as a dentist. You’ll also have to pass a qualifying exam before you can apply for said residency, meaning you’ll be doing extra prep while worrying about board exams and graduation. Residency positions are highly competitive and less than half of the applicants typically get accepted.
For that reason, some candidates choose to take a year or two to work as a dentist before pursuing a specialty like OMFS. It’s always a good idea to have a little experience under your belt regardless and working for a year may also make you a stronger candidate for the residency of your choice.
However, your education may not be done even after the additional 4 years of training! There is an alternative 6-year dual-degree option that will earn you an MD alongside your maxillofacial credential. Beyond either the 4- or 6-year options, however, there can also be an option to pursue a subspecialty fellowship. This option adds an additional year or two of study and deepens your knowledge and scope of practice in one particular area. There are three main branches of subspecialty for OMFS;
Becoming a cosmetic or plastic surgery specialist means you will be able to perform a variety of procedures. From basic facelifts to complex rhinoplasty, this specialty will allow you to help patients reclaim their confidence and improve the function of many structures of the head and face.
Cleft and Craniomaxillofacial Surgery
Doctors wanting to treat cleft lip and palate, as well as other major facial deformities, can focus their education and career on these interventions. These surgeries can be incredibly intricate and impact the patient’s life in significant ways. Many craniofacial surgeons are plastic surgeons who augment their scope with this additional certification.
Head and Neck Oncology
Cancers of the head and neck can be among the most disfiguring of any malignancy. Specializing in head and neck oncology will allow you to treat tumors of the head, neck, oral cavity, and salivary glands. It will likely involve aspects of reconstructive surgery as well. While this fellowship is more commonly pursued and completed by ear nose and throat surgeons than maxillofacial surgeons, it can be an interesting potential avenue for advancement for OMFS as well.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery jobs can be found in a variety of settings. While many work in private outpatient settings, you can also find placements in a hospital or academic setting. Maxillofacial surgeons working in an academic setting will see more rare, complex, and emergency cases than you may see in private practice. In hospital and academic jobs, you may treat everything from severe facial traumas to life-threatening infections and other emergencies.
However, true emergencies won’t make up the bulk of your day even in a hospital maxillofacial surgery job; many of the cases appropriate for your expertise will be assigned to ENT surgeons and other specialists whose scope overlaps with OMFS.
Working in a practice will often give you more flexibility in your schedule and generally provide a less stressful work environment in many ways. Just like any other dental job, however, going into business on your own can bring its own demands and stresses. Partnering with a DSO like Community Dental Partners can help you achieve the kind of work-life balance that can ensure a long and fulfilling oral and maxillofacial surgery career.
4. Maxillofacial Surgery Is a High-Stress Job
Oral and maxillofacial surgery jobs come with amazing benefits. Your work as a surgeon will be truly life-changing for many patients. It demands deep intellectual engagement, excellent dexterity and skill, and superior ability to plan for multifaceted, complex cases. If you’re looking for a career that will take you far beyond the daily grind of filling cavities, OMFS may be for you.
You should be aware, though, that oral and maxillofacial surgery is rated as one of the most stressful of any dental specialty. The work is typically higher risk, so you’ll be working under more pressure than your average dental doctor. Maxillofacial surgeons frequently serve as surgeons and anesthetists simultaneously, meaning your patients’ lives will be in your hands more often than most dental practitioners.
It’s especially important for maxillofacial surgeons to seek out or build a work environment that will help them cope with the demands of their job. You’ll want to work somewhere with a culture that supports your focus and energy so you can do your best work and avoid burnout.
Additionally, all that extra schooling comes at a cost. OMFS carries a heavier student loan debt than most other specialties. While surgeons can expect a higher paycheck than most general dentists, many maxillofacial surgeons report their debt to be a major source of stress for them. Keep an eye out for maxillofacial surgery jobs that come with benefits like student loan repayment assistance. As you consider different specialties, remember that career fulfillment comes from balance. You don’t want to get bored with your work, so look for something that will challenge you and keep you learning throughout your career. However, be realistic about your ability to cope with the demands of the job. Working with CDP can help you find that balance, both with an oral and maxillofacial surgery job and with any other specialty you might consider. Schedule a call with a recruiting manager to learn more about a great oral and maxillofacial surgery career at CDP!