Purpose: The specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS) encompasses the diagnosis and surgical management of a variety of pathologic, functional, and esthetic conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region. Despite the specialty's prominent role in the field of dentistry, a lack of complete understanding still remains among dental and medical health professionals as to the exact scope and expertise of the oral and maxillofacial surgeon. The present study aimed to analyze a population of dental students' perceptions of OMS as a specialty with respect to treatment rendered, referral patterns, and a general opinion of the specialty as a whole. Materials and Methods: A survey consisting of 10 multiple-choice questions was compiled and distributed to dental students through an on-line polling service (SurveyMonkey). A total of 5 dental student classes at a single dental school were polled using school-based electronic mail, including the graduating seniors. All answers were kept confidential, and no individual students were identified. The students were not able to retake the survey once completed. The final tallies of the survey results were compiled and submitted for statistical analysis. Results: Statistically significant associations between the year of dental education and student perceptions of OMS were determined. As dental students progress through their undergraduate studies, their perceptions change with regard to the referral of dental implants. Periodontists were found to have statistically significantly greater rates of referral than oral and maxillofacial surgeons from dental students in the fourth year and recent graduates compared with younger dental students from the first, second, and third years for placement of dental implants. Statistically insignificant in terms of a changing dental student perception was the finding that third molar removal was within the domain of the oral and maxillofacial surgeon, as well as the management of cleft lip and palate deformities and mandibular fracture repair. Almost all the dental classes believed that the specialty of OMS was both medical and dental in nature and that it is a very important dental specialty. Conclusions: Dental student perceptions of OMS change throughout their undergraduate training. The reasons for such a change are multivariate and might include factors such as the amount of didactic training and clinical exposure. It is vital to both recognize and address this change at an undergraduate level of training in an effort to increase educated referrals to a surgeon who might provide the best treatment options for the patient. A stronger understanding of the dental students' perception of OMS provides an opportunity for the oral and maxillofacial academic faculty to better educate students and, ultimately, strengthen our specialty.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Oral Surgery