Oral pathologists are specialists in diseases and conditions that affect the oral cavity, also known as the mouth. They are trained to diagnose and treat cancers of the mouth, salivary glands, and jaw bones; infections and inflammatory disease of the teeth; dental trauma from injuries or accidents; infections and inflammatory disease of the gums; developmental abnormalities of the teeth and jaws; salivary gland disorders; genetic abnormalities of tooth enamel, such as amelogenesis imperfecta; and diseases of the supporting structures of teeth. They may also diagnose and treat conditions that cause dry mouth or excessive salivation, called sialorrhea.
Oral pathologists work in private practice as well as in academic institutions, clinics and hospitals. To become an oral pathologist, you must complete a doctor of dental medicine (DMD) or a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) program after completing your bachelor’s degree. After this initial training, you will need to complete at least two years of specialized graduate studies in oral and maxillofacial pathology.
Some programs may require you to complete a one-year residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery or a two-year general pathology residency prior to beginning your oral pathology training. After completing your training, you will need to obtain a state license to practice as an oral pathologist.
The American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (ABOMP) offers a voluntary certification process for oral pathologists. To be eligible for ABOMP certification, you must have completed an accredited oral and maxillofacial pathology training program and passed a written and oral examination. Board certification is not required to practice as an oral pathologist, but it may give you an advantage when seeking employment or when applying for hospital privileges.
If you are interested in becoming an oral pathologist, you should begin by completing a bachelor’s degree in biology or another related discipline. This will prepare you for the rigorous coursework required to complete your DMD or DDS program. Once you have obtained your dental license, you can apply for admission to a graduate program in oral and maxillofacial pathology.
After completing your training, you will need to obtain a state license to practice as an oral pathologist. Board certification is not required to practice, but it may give you an advantage when seeking employment or when applying for hospital privileges.
Oral pathologists play an important role in maintaining the health and wellbeing of their patients. They are highly trained specialists who possess a deep understanding of the structure and function of the oral cavity, allowing them to accurately diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions that affect the mouth.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as an oral pathologist, be prepared for a challenging and rewarding career path filled with opportunities to make a positive impact on the lives of your patients.