Oral and maxillofacial surgery is the part of surgery that deals with the diagnosis, surgical and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries and defects of the human jaws and associated structures.11
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons treat and care for patients who experience conditions such as problem wisdom teeth, facial pain and misaligned jaws. They also treat accident victims suffering facial injuries, offer reconstructive and dental implant surgery, and care for patients with tumours, cysts, and developmental craniofacial abnormalities of the jaws and face.12
Oral and maxillofacial surgery is regarded as both a medical surgery specialty and a dental specialty.
How are oral and maxillofacial surgeons trained?
The Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons delivers oral and maxillofacial surgery training. Training consists of a minimum of four years training and an approved research study (such as a postgraduate research degree). Upon successful completion of training, a person is eligible for a Fellowship in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.13
To be eligible for the training programme, a person must have completed both a dentistry and medical degree, including having completed an intern year and a surgery-in-general year; and hold general registration with the DBA and the Medical Board of Australia.
In addition to the Fellowship in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, a person must have a minimum of two years general dental practice to register with the DBA as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.14
What is the assessment process for overseas-trained oral and maxillofacial surgeons?
An overseas-trained oral and maxillofacial surgeon must have their specialist qualification assessed as substantially equivalent to an approved qualification for the specialty. The ADC review and make recommendations about overseas-trained oral and maxillofacial surgeon specialist applications to the DBA.
In addition to having their specialist qualification assessed as substantially equivalent, the DBA’s Specialist Registration Standard requires specialist registration applicants to have completed a minimum of two years general dental practice in addition to meeting all other requirements for general registration as a dentist. The general practice requirement may be achieved by experience outside Australia, subject to assessment and approval by the DBA.15
What issues have stakeholders identified for the oral and maxillofacial surgeon workforce?
It was highlighted that the supply of oral and maxillofacial surgeons is restricted by the number of training places, and that there is currently an insufficient number of training places to meet demand – it was reported that in 2013 there were 25 applicants who met the prerequisites to enter training, but only eight places available.
Another issue highlighted was the similarity of the scope of practice between oral and maxillofacial surgeons and oral surgeons. Oral surgery is recognised by the DBA as a specialist category, to represent those practitioners who were already registered in New South Wales at the time the national DBA was formed. However, there are currently no accredited training programmes in oral surgery. The Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons hold the view that another tier of training is not necessary for the oral surgery workforce.
Existing workforce position
The existing workforce position was determined from expert opinion from jurisdictions and the profession. A traffic light approach was used (as described in Appendix D). The oral and maxillofacial surgeons existing workforce position was assessed as green – no current perceived shortage.
Table shows the number and characteristics of employed registered oral and maxillofacial surgery specialists in 2011 and 2012. In both years, almost all oral and maxillofacial surgeons worked primarily as clinicians. Few specialist oral and maxillofacial surgeons were female – less than one in ten. This was the lowest percentage of female registered specialists of all dental specialties.
Table : Employed registered specialists: oral and maxillofacial surgeons, workforce characteristics, 2011 and 2012
Table shows the total number of employed dentists (both specialists and general dentists) who reported oral and maxillofacial surgery as their principal area of work, and their selected characteristics in 2011 and 2012.
Table : Employed dentists (including specialists): principal area of main job reported as oral and maxillofacial surgery, workforce characteristics, 2011 and 2012