Oral Medicine is a unique discipline within dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis and non-surgical management of orofacial disease. The Oral Medicine Department at the University of Washington strives to be a global leader in the diagnosis and management of disorders in the orofacial complex whose treatment may fall between medicine and dentistry.
Training in Oral Medicine combines elements of both dental and medical education to enable graduates to provide holistic care for patients with orofacial disorders, oral manifestations of systemic disease, orofacial complications of medical therapies, and other medical complexities that affect the delivery of traditional dental care.
Program Goals, Objectives, and Competency Assessment
The primary goal of the post-graduate program is to develop oral medicine specialists with expertise in scientific methodology, clinical diagnosis, and therapeutic management of orofacial disorders who are capable of pursuing careers in academics, research, and specialty practice.
Graduate students successfully completing the Oral Medicine program will be able to:
- Demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in the assessment and management of oral mucosal and salivary disorders, oral pre-malignant and malignant conditions, sleep-related breathing disorders, acute and chronic orofacial pain conditions (including temporomandibular dysfunction), orofacial neurosensory disorders, motor dysfunction in the jaws, and orofacial manifestations of systemic disease and disease therapy.
- Demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in medical assessment as it relates to the management of orofacial disorders and the maintenance of orofacial health in patients at all levels of systemic health (including the medically complex).
- Demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in the selection of appropriate clinical, laboratory, and radiographic examinations in the diagnosis and management of orofacial disorders.
- Demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in the design and implementation of evidence-based preventive care and treatment regimens in the management of orofacial disorders.
- Demonstrate knowledge of and proficiency in hospital protocols and policies and the management of patients with special health care needs and/or orofacial complications within a hospital setting.
- Demonstrate expertise in the clinical and pharmacologic management of patients with orofacial conditions, including patients with special medical and/or behavioral needs.
- Demonstrate expertise in clinical teaching and oversight of pre-doctoral dental students in the delivery of urgent and emergent dental care, including the diagnosis and management of acute pain, odontogenic infections, and dental trauma.
- Demonstrate knowledge of the basic sciences, scientific methodology, and research design. Display independent critical thinking in the evaluation of scientific literature and the ability to incorporate novel information from this analysis into the clinical setting.
- Conduct research related to oral medicine.
- Develop a spirit of community involvement and volunteer service that extends to fellow Oral Medicine Residents, the University of Washington, and the healthcare needs of the broader community
Student progress (and ultimately competence) is assessed in each domain outlined in the program’s goals and objectives. Graduate students are formally evaluated by the graduate faculty on a quarterly basis. Evaluations take into account items germane to teaching, patient care, and research including critical thinking, communication, professionalism, ethical decision making, physical examination, assessment of signs and symptoms, differential diagnosis, and all aspects of patient management.
Graduate faculty collectively assess student competence based on performance in clinical case conference, direct clinical care, seminar-based instruction, teaching activities, written examinations, and competency assessments.
Information regarding specific competency assessments is provided to all graduate students upon matriculation to the program
The Oral Medicine program is a continuous 24-month Master’s of Science in Dentistry (MSD) program that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) as an Advanced General Dentistry Education Program in Oral Medicine. The program provides extensive training in both clinical Oral Medicine and research methodology.
Oral Medicine specialists require considerable knowledge in the basic health sciences (including but not limited to immunology, physiology, general pathology, pharmacology, and internal medicine) and must be able to apply this knowledge to the clinical management of orofacial diseases. An intimate understanding of the instruments, procedures and techniques used in the diagnosis of all oral diseases and a broad knowledge of treatment planning are also critical.
Clinical training focuses primarily on the non-surgical management of disease including pharmacotherapy, physical therapy, biofeedback, the use of oral appliances, and behavioral counseling (as it relates to the management of orofacial disease). Surgical interventions such as biopsy, incision and drainage, curettage, and aspiration are also stressed where applicable.
The clinical and didactic portions of the program are designed to provide extensive training in the diagnosis and management of:
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD)
- Nerve and neurosensory disorders (including burning mouth syndrome, oral and facial neuropathic pain, and trigeminal neuralgia)
- Chronic orofacial pain (including psychosocial aspects of pain management)
- Oral and mandibular movement disorders (including clenching/bruxism, dystonia, and tardive dyskinesia)
- Diseases/conditions affecting the oral mucosa (including aphthous stomatitis. lichen planus, vesiculobullous conditions, and allergic/hypersensitivity reactions)
- Oral dysplasia and other premalignant changes of the oral cavity
- Salivary gland dysfunction (including Sjögren’s syndrome)
- Obstructive sleep apnea/Sleep disordered breathing
- Oral complications of cancer therapies (including chemotherapy and radiation)
In the first year, clinical training primarily takes place in Oral Medicine Clinical Services (OMCS) at the University of Washington School of Dentistry (UWSoD), a large clinical service providing care to a large number of complex patients with a wide variety of need. Additional clinical experience takes place in Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology and the Dental Urgent Care Clinic (DUCC) at UWSoD.
Clinical rotations in the second year include specialty Oral Medicine rotations in oncology and transplant medicine at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), the Dysplasia clinic (a subunit of the UW Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery Center), and an elective rotation in the Dental Education in the Care of Persons with Disabilities (DECOD) clinic. Students also complete medical rotations in Dermatology, Internal Medicine, Otolaryngology, and Rheumatology through the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC). All rotations are located in Seattle.
In addition to clinical training, the Oral Medicine program is devoted to the development of clinician scientists with a strong basis in research. To this end, all students receive training in critical thinking, research methodology, literature assessment, and biostatistics. All students are required to select an area of interest and complete a Master’s thesis under the guidance of a faculty research committee.
Finally, graduate training also includes clinical and seminar-based teaching of pre-doctoral dental students at UWSoD. Students serve as clinical instructors in DUCC one session per week. Additionally, in Autumn and Winter quarter, graduate students take part in seminar-based instruction one afternoon per week. Teaching responsibilities comprise <10% of total program time and are designed to enhance the education process. Additional opportunities are available based on the interest of the graduate student.
Many of our past graduates have used these skills to pursue careers in academic dentistry as clinicians, researchers, and educators. Others have used their training in private practices in oral medicine and/or the management of medically complex patients.
Please consult the UW School of Dentistry DDS Admissions table for information regarding degree completion and state licensure requirements that may be helpful to potential applicants considering future practice outside of Washington state.