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Do I need to be realistic about my age and let go of my dreams of a long residency?

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rtrue

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Hello everyone,

I am a non-traditional incoming D1 that has always dreamed about oral surgery. For a while now, I have been selling myself on the idea that I would be happy just to get to dental school and have my own practice. I spent a lot of time resenting myself for being too afraid earlier in life to pursue this in my younger years, so it felt reasonable that if I could at least pull off dental school, I could find some peace.

The thing is, I just can't let go of the OMFS dream, even though I can't help but feel like it's unrealistic due to my age, as I would be 46 after I completing a 4 year residency (assuming I got one right out of school). I have tried convincing myself that the right GPR and becoming a "super GP" might give me enough extra training to take on some of the cases I am interested in, but I know only an OMFS residency will allow me to do the advanced cases I am so obsessed with.

I will say that I apparently have good genes and that both my parents were working 80+ weeks in physically demanding jobs all the way through there 40s, so I may be okay there. I personally have never had issues staying healthy and at this point can compete with most of the 20 years olds with respect to stamina. I also know that my drive and commitment are real and that I have the brains to do well. That said, I can't shake my concerns about missing my window.

Is it realistic to plan to work to 66 as an OMFS? I read around here and, with respect to the general surgery posts that are analogous to this, there is a lot of negativity thrown at folks in my situation. They paint a bleak picture of surgeons bodies failing them and that make it seem as though there's a hard limit on what's realistic with respect to career duration.

I know I still have a ways to go and, that before anything, I have to crush it at dental school and nail the CBSE. I also figure that an externship will be the real test to see if I can handle the demands of the residency. That said, those things aren't what keep me up at night. I have great faith in my ability to do that, I just want to know if I can let go of my concerns about my age and go full speed at it or if I am setting myself up failure. Obviously no one hear can really answer that for me, but I would love to hear feedback, negative or positive, from anyone who has insight.
 
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Flossaraptor

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Well, the oral surgeon I work for is 65 and still plans on practicing for another 8 or so years.. I know he has some back pains, but I feel like almost everybody in the dental field has some sort of back issues, so it is honestly expected. So yes, it is definitely doable for some people to continue practicing into and through their 60’s.
 
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rtrue

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Well, the oral surgeon I work for is 65 and still plans on practicing for another 8 or so years.. I know he has some back pains, but I feel like almost everybody in the dental field has some sort of back issues, so it is honestly expected. So yes, it is definitely doable for some people to continue practicing into and through their 60’s.
Thank you for the reply, Flossaraptor.

That's exactly the kind of story I am looking for and addresses my number one concern. I feel like if I can reasonably expect to work 20 years after residency, I can rationalize it.
 
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desertrat12

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No comment on whether it’s right or not for you, but a buddy of mine is at a program where one of their attendings is 70 and does more volume than any other attending and shows no signs of stopping
 
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chucktaylor

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I would say follow your dreams OP. Sounds cheesy but you don't want any regrets later in life! Yolo..
 
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DocMon16

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Do what you want to man, don't let anyone decide it for you. As a current OMFS resident, we have attending surgeons 39 years of age all the way to early 60's and still going. No issues at all. I also think that no matter what surgery cases you want to do - even simple straight forward dentoalveolar cases, OMFS training is unparalleled in surgical training compared to GPR or AEGD (not to sound like I'm on a high horse and all respect towards those other training programs). Keep up the good fight!
 
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Silver_arrow

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A lot of omfs work until 70 and beyond.

I’ve encountered very few that have retired by age 65.
There is no guarantee that you will make it into omfs. If your okay with ending up as a general dentist then go for it.
 
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yappy

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I say go for what interests you most!
Having said that, as you’re a D1 at the beginning of this journey, make sure to explore all the specialties before deciding. Shadow in departments and private practice too. Pay attention to what types of cases they’re doing so you have an accurate view of the specialty.
 
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I say go for what interests you most!
Having said that, as you’re a D1 at the beginning of this journey, make sure to explore all the specialties before deciding. Shadow in departments and private practice too. Pay attention to what types of cases they’re doing so you have an accurate view of the specialty.
Agree with this. It's still early. Explore your options.

Now a different view. I'm almost 60 yrs old.

I'm a very healthy person, but I noticed that father time has inevitably caught up to me. You can still work well into your 60's, but I feel those in their 70's are pushing their bounderies of how effective they are with treating patients. I used to work with a 73 yr old orthodontist. He was very good when he was younger. His eye sight is failing now and unfortunately the quality of his work is also declining. As you age .... you probably have no idea that your abilities are in decline. Or you don't want to admit it.

The other really important issue with being older. The MOST IMPORTANT asset to an older person. TIME. OP is in his 40's. You're still young. When you get older .... your TIME will become valuable. If your life goal is to become an OMFS and you will be content to spend your limited TIME doing this ... then do it. I love what I do (orthodontist), but I can assure you that I work with the sole intention of providing TIME for myself to do what I really enjoy. I work to live. Not live to work.
 
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schmoob

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Hello everyone,

I am a non-traditional incoming D1 that has always dreamed about oral surgery. For a while now, I have been selling myself on the idea that I would be happy just to get to dental school and have my own practice. I spent a lot of time resenting myself for being too afraid earlier in life to pursue this in my younger years, so it felt reasonable that if I could at least pull off dental school, I could find some peace.

The thing is, I just can't let go of the OMFS dream, even though I can't help but feel like it's unrealistic due to my age, as I would be 46 after I completing a 4 year residency (assuming I got one right out of school). I have tried convincing myself that the right GPR and becoming a "super GP" might give me enough extra training to take on some of the cases I am interested in, but I know only an OMFS residency will allow me to do the advanced cases I am so obsessed with.

I will say that I apparently have good genes and that both my parents were working 80+ weeks in physically demanding jobs all the way through there 40s, so I may be okay there. I personally have never had issues staying healthy and at this point can compete with most of the 20 years olds with respect to stamina. I also know that my drive and commitment are real and that I have the brains to do well. That said, I can't shake my concerns about missing my window.

Is it realistic to plan to work to 66 as an OMFS? I read around here and, with respect to the general surgery posts that are analogous to this, there is a lot of negativity thrown at folks in my situation. They paint a bleak picture of surgeons bodies failing them and that make it seem as though there's a hard limit on what's realistic with respect to career duration.

I know I still have a ways to go and, that before anything, I have to crush it at dental school and nail the CBSE. I also figure that an externship will be the real test to see if I can handle the demands of the residency. That said, those things aren't what keep me up at night. I have great faith in my ability to do that, I just want to know if I can let go of my concerns about my age and go full speed at it or if I am setting myself up failure. Obviously no one hear can really answer that for me, but I would love to hear feedback, negative or positive, from anyone who has insight.
OMFS is great, but I was in a similar situation. I started dental school in my 30s. Going through another 4 years of residency would have been too much for my family. I would’ve missed way too much of my kids childhood. It wasn’t about what I wanted anymore.
Fast forward I am a GP and do pretty much everything. I do 3rd molars, to a degree. All of my own endo to include re-treats. All my own prosth etc. I deal with plenty of blood on a daily basis. I have no regrets.
 
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Saddleshoes

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You may be putting the cart before the horse.
As an incoming D1 you still have a long road before you. You are going to see many new opportunities open up to you over the next 4 -5 years. Don't close off those options too early.

That being said, one of the best Oral Surg I know was "cutting" until he over 75. THEN he "retired" to open a mobile dental care program. He managed that deal for another 7-8 years before he finally retired for good.
 
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OMSDoc

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Go for it. My OMS father is 87 and still practices full-time. And he is sharp and steady.

My program director retired from his institution and came to work with my practice. He still comes and scrubs on orthognathic cases with me. I do pediatric anesthesia for him for in-clinic dentoalveolar surgery. And he is sharp and steady.

There was a study (but I don't have the reference) in which engineers who retired at 65 were followed. Within 2 years, a significant number were dead. They hypothesized that, for high-level thinkers, suddenly and irreversibly not having that interaction was very detrimental.
 
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SilkyJ

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Hello everyone,

I am a non-traditional incoming D1 that has always dreamed about oral surgery. For a while now, I have been selling myself on the idea that I would be happy just to get to dental school and have my own practice. I spent a lot of time resenting myself for being too afraid earlier in life to pursue this in my younger years, so it felt reasonable that if I could at least pull off dental school, I could find some peace.

The thing is, I just can't let go of the OMFS dream, even though I can't help but feel like it's unrealistic due to my age, as I would be 46 after I completing a 4 year residency (assuming I got one right out of school). I have tried convincing myself that the right GPR and becoming a "super GP" might give me enough extra training to take on some of the cases I am interested in, but I know only an OMFS residency will allow me to do the advanced cases I am so obsessed with.
Hopefully this can give you some perspective.

- 46 years old finishing residency? Not a big deal. I trained with a couple guys who finished in their 40’s and they all said it was fine doing residency at their age.
- There is nothing preventing you from having a long and fruitful career starting in your mid-40’s. As other posters have mentioned, many OMFS work into their 70’s (or beyond) purely by choice, not for financial reasons. OMFS also gives you the opportunity to scale back to a couple days a week of clinical practice and still make a good living.
- OMFS is arguably less strenuous on the back and neck if done right. For me personally, my back pain improved when I left general dentistry and started OMFS.
- Don’t get too infatuated with the “idea” of OMFS until you’ve had a chance to see what they actually do. Schedule a couple externships in your D2 or D3 year and have fun.
- No offense intended at all, but as an “incoming D1”, you probably have no concept of what cases require specialist training, or even what type of cases you will enjoy doing.
- As an incoming D1, I recommend exploring your options and giving all the specialties (and general dentistry) a chance. Find what you love, what you hate, and what you can’t live without.
- Work hard and enjoy dental school! If you’re thinking about specializing, strive to do succeed, perform well academically, and this will keep your options open.
 
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PerioDont

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I'm in perio, but we have residents in their 40s doing just fine!

But I agree with the other poster, start dental school with the assumption you will be a general dentist
 
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dnyal

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I’m not going into dental school, but as a non-trad, older premed, I’m in a similar situation. I’d be 44-45 by the time I finish residency if I go with a high-income competitive one of my liking. I’d be 42 if I go with family medicine. Heck, I’d finish the whole ordeal at 37 if, instead of medical school, I became a PA.

However, I want to be an MD, not a PA. I’d find being a PA too restrictive (yes, I know, they do almost everything doctors do, etc.). So, one of my justifications is that, as an MD, I’d be making at least double that of a PA in the same area. Even though it would take longer to finish MD training, in a few years of practicing medicine, I will catch up to what I would have earned as a PA.

You’re already “old.” So, if the financial aspect is something important, you might be better off as a maxilofacial surgeon in the end, even if you start working as one later than you would’ve done as a general dentist.
 
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rtrue

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Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

Definitely going in with an open mind, just needed some perspective on what may still be possible.

In any case, as long I do the work, I will be a dentist in 2026. I am pretty stoked about that. Time will tell where that leads me!
 
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Startingover123

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Hopefully this can give you some perspective.

- 46 years old finishing residency? Not a big deal. I trained with a couple guys who finished in their 40’s and they all said it was fine doing residency at their age.
- There is nothing preventing you from having a long and fruitful career starting in your mid-40’s. As other posters have mentioned, many OMFS work into their 70’s (or beyond) purely by choice, not for financial reasons. OMFS also gives you the opportunity to scale back to a couple days a week of clinical practice and still make a good living.
- OMFS is arguably less strenuous on the back and neck if done right. For me personally, my back pain improved when I left general dentistry and started OMFS.
- Don’t get too infatuated with the “idea” of OMFS until you’ve had a chance to see what they actually do. Schedule a couple externships in your D2 or D3 year and have fun.
- No offense intended at all, but as an “incoming D1”, you probably have no concept of what cases require specialist training, or even what type of cases you will enjoy doing.
- As an incoming D1, I recommend exploring your options and giving all the specialties (and general dentistry) a chance. Find what you love, what you hate, and what you can’t live without.
- Work hard and enjoy dental school! If you’re thinking about specializing, strive to do succeed, perform well academically, and this will keep your options open.
Do you think being in your 40’s applying to programs makes it more difficult to match due to ones age?
 

Onyxxx7

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Do you think being in your 40’s applying to programs makes it more difficult to match due to ones age?

Short answer: yes

Everything matters, you just need to give them a reason to say yes.
 
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