Professionals in oral pathology and biology work in private dental practice, in research labs and the halls of academia. Responsibilities might include treating patients suffering from mouth cancer, advancing dentistry via research or educating students about the field. Read more to learn if a career in oral pathology and biology appeals to you.
Oral pathology and biology are related fields. Oral biology uses science disciplines including molecular biology and immunology to avoid and cure mouth diseases and developmental defects. An advanced degree in oral biology might qualify you for careers in researching and teaching.
Oral and maxillofacial pathology, a specialty within the dentistry field, involves diagnosing, treating and studying diseases of the mouth, jaw and face. As an oral and maxillofacial pathologist (OMP), you might examine and treat patients for disorders including mouth cancer. Your duties could include doing microscopic biopsies of tissue taken from patients. As an OMP, you might run your own private practice or a biopsy company or work at a hospital. Career options also exist in researching and teaching.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that jobs for miscellaneous dentist specialists, the broader category which includes OMPs, were expected to increase 12% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). OMPs and miscellaneous dentist specialists earned a median yearly salary of $162,260 in 2011,the BLS said.
Your first step toward becoming an OMP is becoming a general dentist. This involves graduating from dental school with a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. The next step is getting training in your chosen specialty by completing an oral pathology residency program lasting three years.
Residency programs in oral and maxillofacial pathology may include lectures, clinical experience treating patients and rotations in areas including surgical pathology, microscopic/anatomic pathology and autopsies. Residency training aims to teach you how to diagnose mouth diseases by surgically removing tissues and examining these during a biopsy. You'll study treating oral diseases and using diagnostic tools including radiology imaging.
Your residency training might run longer than three years if you choose to earn a master's or doctoral degree in oral biology, oral pathology and biology or a related field. Advanced degree programs in oral biology could boost your dental career by adding to your expertise in oral diseases while also qualifying you for careers in research or academia. Graduate degree programs in oral biology are also open to students who aren't enrolled in a dental residency program.
After completing an accredited oral pathology residency program and passing a certification test, you'll be awarded credentials as a diplomate by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. All states require that dentists obtain a license to practice. You also must acquire a license to practice the specialty of oral and maxillofacial pathology.