Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon — What?
The American Dental Association (ADA) defines an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMFS) as one who specializes in diagnostics, surgery and adjunctive treatment of the functional and aesthetic aspects (in this instance, "aesthetic" refers to cosmetic dentistry) of the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial regions.
The oral and maxillofacial region includes the mouth, teeth, jaws and face. Procedures performed by an OMFS can (and do) include everything from remedying sleep apnea (the temporary stoppage of breathing during the night), to treating Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) to the correction of cleft palate and facial deformities.
Until about half a century ago, the OMFS specialty was referred to simply as "oral surgeon." At that time, dentists wishing to become oral surgeons typically spent between 1 to 2 years in post-dental school studies. In these advanced studies, the burgeoning oral surgeons learned to do what some general dentists of today take care of on their own; namely, a tooth extraction, removal of mouth lesions and dental treatment of oral infections.
The Life and Times of the OMFS
The face of oral surgery has changed. Today, those wishing to become an OMFS can plan on spending four years in dental school and another three to six years honing the OMFS specialty. Keep in mind that this extra seven to ten years of school is in addition to the four years that the average student will spend earning his or her BS degree.
Many consider the OMFS profession the long lost link between the medical and dental fields. And, in fact, many programs for the OMFS specialty encourage students to earn their MD as well. Once schooling is complete and an OMFS goes into practice, however, many of the similarities between the work and life of this specialized dentist and that of a specialized doctor end.
Unlike many specialized medical doctors, an OMFS can count on a limited number of after-hour emergency dentist surgeries. The rather normal hours that an OMFS keep allows a person in this profession to not only reap the personal satisfaction of helping those in need of complex medical attention, but do so while maintaining an excellent personal life balance. It is, perhaps for these last two reasons, that many would-be doctors choose to enter into the OMFS specialty (ironically, perhaps, many an OMFS ends up a certified doctor, too).
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