According to The World Health Organization, there are currently 120 documented diseases in ten different classes that have manifestations in the oral cavity. And when you consider that many of today's leading killers, including heart disease, diabetes and HIV, are in many ways enhanced or spread through the lesions inside our mouths, the need to find medical experts that can diagnose and treat these oral diseases, is at a critical juncture. This potentially life-saving duty is the responsibility of a professionally trained oral pathologist.
WHAT IS AN ORAL PATHOLOGIST?
An oral pathologist is a medically trained Doctor of Dental Medicine or Doctor of Dental Surgery, who can diagnose and treat several different oral diseases that impact the overall health of the face, mouth, jaw and other related bodily systems. Some of their general duties include:
This career path is one that requires extensive medical training. It begins by receiving a DDS or DDM degree, followed by a three year internship in maxillofacial pathology, and finally board certification. Typically, the oral pathologist will work in private dental practices, dental hospitals, and academia, or in research and diagnostic laboratories.
An oral pathologist is one of the most diverse dental experts, meaning they typically study several dental specialties, including:
In order to practice as an oral pathologist, a candidate must complete licensing requirements in each US State they wish to practice. This licensing procedure includes passing board certification as administered by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (ABOMP). In order to maintain their license, they must keep up with continued education, and advancements in diagnosis and treatments in oral pathology.
Understanding the Educational Path to Becoming an Oral Pathologist
In order to become a licensed Oral Pathologist, a candidate must complete board certification, as monitored by the ABOMP. A candidate must first receive a bachelor's degree, proceed to dental school, and become a licensed Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). After receiving a dental degree, the future Oral Pathologist will spend three years in residency training, learning how to specialize in oral pathology.
The Educational Steps for Becoming an Oral Pathologist
First - Receive a Bachelor’s Degree
When a candidate for oral pathology begins their educational track, the first stop is earning their bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. The general focus of studies for future pathologists include, primary education, such as biological sciences, including biology, physiology, chemistry, physics, and human anatomy. It's also suggested that any profession that works in a clinical laboratory setting should also take core courses in advanced mathematics.
The bachelor degree is also the time when candidates should focus their efforts on building a resume that will help them gain entrance to dental college. There are several ways of accomplishing this, such as:
It's also a good idea for the candidate to explore additional educational opportunities that are related to the dental industry, such as learning more about heart disease and diabetes — which are quickly evolving into the dental practice.
Second – Graduate from Dental School
Becoming a DDS or DDM is the next step of the career path for an oral pathologist. Dental school programs begin with discovery of dental sciences and biomedical education, within a wide-range of topics, from cell development, to overall human dental anatomy. During the first two years, dental students will focus on learning dental sciences and procedures in a laboratory setting. The final two years permits dental students to begin to explore clinical exercises in groups. Here they learn how to diagnose and treat patients under the direct supervision of licensed dentists.
It’s at this time when the dental student will put into live practice what they learned during the first two years. After they have expertly completed the dental school examinations, they will become a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry).
Third – Become Licensed DDS / DMD
In order to practice as a dentist, licensing is first required. The licensing examination includes passing a written and clinical exam, referred to as the National Board Dental Examinations, as administered through the American Dental Association.
There are two parts to this exam:
Each US State has individual requirements to become licensed, and often requires dentists to continue their education in order to maintain their licensing through attending educational classes or seminars.
Fourth – Complete Residency Training
The final phase of educational training for oral pathologists begins with a three year residency program. This residency training is traditionally overseen by professional dental hospitals and existing board certified oral pathologists.
There are several steps to completing residency training, and just as many educational objectives, including:
It's also critical for the resident to complete research papers during their residency clinical training. In order to successfully navigate and complete the residency program, a candidate must sit before the board and pass board certification examinations.
Understanding the Career Path of an Oral Pathologist
Oral Pathologists traditionally work in laboratory settings, or in private practices. Their career options are typically restricted to four categories:
It's also important for future oral pathologists to understand the additional skill sets required to successfully place themselves into employment. Some of these skills include:
Traditionally, these skills are learned during the entire college career path. However, there is no substitute to practical, on-hands experience. It's recommended by the AAOMP that future oral pathologists consider mentoring with an existing board-certified oral pathologist for the first few years of their careers.
The ever-evolving medical industry is showing significant signs of increasing employment opportunities. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that all dental-related careers should increase by at least 20 percent over the next five years. Oral Pathology is a growing career — as there is more evidence to support the need to include oral health in all major disease treatment programs. Since oral pathologists are the first line of detection to find, diagnose, and treat many oral diseases — their career opportunities seem to be on the rise.
Average Salary of an Oral Pathologist
Location is the biggest factor that impacts the average salary of oral pathologists. It's estimated by Payscale.com that oral pathologists have an average salary of nearly $150,000 annually. Other factors that impact salary include:
An oral pathologist is a dental specialist whose main objective is discovery of facts in order to property treat oral diseases. This career choice requires extensive interpersonal skills, attention to detail, critical thinking skills, and most importantly, patience. However, when successfully fused together, a candidate possessing these skill sets has a strong chance of becoming a very good oral pathologist.