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Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist: Education and Career Information

The world of dentistry is continuously growing, and pursuing a career in this field is very lucrative, but demands time and patience. If you are interested in how the mouth and oral cavity works, but want to do something a little different, you should consider becoming an oral and maxillofacial radiologist. Although challenging with a number of years of schooling ahead, if you can withstand the demands, this could be a very rewarding career.

What does an oral and maxillofacial radiologist do?

Also known as a dental radiologist, this position specializes in using images to diagnose and treat patients. They use CT scans, X-rays, MRIs and PET scans of a patient’s head, neck and jaw. They also work with other dentists to conduct exams, evaluate and determine diseases, tumors or other conditions. They are known to give professional opinions as to whether a patient needs to see an oral surgeon. They work closely with other dental professionals, such as orthodontists, oral surgeons and family dentists.

How much does an oral and maxillofacial radiologist earn?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for this profession is about $168,870 in 2013. This is contingent on the facility, area of the country, years of experience and more. This profession in dentistry has a favorable outlook, with an expected 16% increase through the year 2022. This position is also in high demand, according to the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology (AAOMR) in the areas of teaching. The highest salaries noted for this position are in the Northeast or Southwest, and have been upwards of $245,000 per year.

What skills are needed to become an oral and maxillofacial radiologist?

Interpersonal skills: This role must be able to deal with a variety of people on a number of levels. Patients go through different emotions, and being able to soothe them in their time of need is key. You need to gain the patient’s trust and cooperation to get the job done. This role will also need to be able to counsel families and patients when delivering test results or news that is not favorable.

Technical skills: A radiologist works with some of the most sensitive equipment in the world. They must be able to keep up with changing trends, software and equipment, understand its intricacies and be able to perform quick maintenance when needed. It is important to be able to read CT scans, PET scans and ultrasounds with precise accuracy to transmit the proper information to the right parties. An interest in new devices and upgraded technology is a must.

Communication skills: The radiologists must be able to listen to patients and other healthcare professionals to make sound decisions on what needs to be done. They must also be able to communicate to the patient, family and other professionals any test results and concluding information they deem necessary. They must be great readers and writers of the written word, and should be able to clearly and concisely communicate any findings or research-based opinions.

Logic skills: In order to properly assess and diagnose a problem, this position must be able to look at a problem and determine the best course of action, including the right equipment that must be used. Problem-solving skills are a definite when dealing in this career field.

Internship Requirements

The residency program is a two year process that is overseen by the AAOMR. During this phase, the candidate will receive hands-on experience, training in all of the procedures and processes involved in properly diagnosing medical conditions and diseases through imagery. This residency is offered through hospitals, and is always managed and overseen by a board-certified dental radiologist.

Educational Requirements

There are a number of steps needed to become an oral and maxillofacial radiologist:

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree program must be completed from an accredited university. During these studies, the student focuses on core studies in the biological sciences, such as chemistry, physiology, anatomy, and biology. They also complete educational training in mathematics communications, and computer science. There must be a strong background in laboratory studies and advanced computer operation.

Attend Dental School

After completing the bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college, the student must apply, and complete dental school. During the first two years of dental school, the student will focus on elementary dental sciences and procedures in a laboratory and classroom environment. The final two years will extend to clinical exercises in groups, where they learn how to diagnose dental conditions in patients. These clinical exercises are monitored and supervised by existing DDS / DMD professionals. After they have completed the dental school examinations, they will become a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry).

The American Dental Association requires an Oral Radiologist to become a DDS or DMD, first by completing and passing the National Board Dental Examinations. This testing process is completed in two separate steps:

First – a written examination that tests the advanced knowledge of all dental procedures and treatments, is completed.

Second – only after passing the first phase will a candidate advance to the clinical phase of this testing.

All US States have specific requirements to become licensed, and often require dentists to continue their education in order to maintain their licensing through attending educational classes or seminars.

Complete Residency Training

There are two different paths that an OMR can take – either become a practicing dental radiologist, or become a teacher. This will require a postdoctoral degree.

In order to become an instructor of dental radiology, a candidate must complete a postdoctoral degree program. This process takes between two to five years to complete, and will lead to the candidate receiving their MS or PhD. The curriculum includes:

•Radiation physics, biology and protection
•Imaging technology and computer-based image evaluation
•Interpretation of radiographic images, as well as advanced CT, MRI, PET, subtraction radiography, and arthographic equipment
•Diagnosis of heat and neck anatomy and trauma
•Clinical oral medicine, research, methods, and instruction

These core studies are completed in the residency training program, which makes it easier to continue to pursue higher education.

Both of these programs help prepare students to complete board certification as overseen by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology.

Although challenging, this could be a beneficial and rewarding career path for someone who is interested in radiology and dentistry.

Dentistry Scholarships

ADA Foundation CBCF Louis Stokes Health Scholars Program CDA Foundation
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
Academy of Laser Dentistry U.S. Army Health Professions Scholarship Hispanic Dental Association

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