The program is a two-year postgraduate certificate with the option for a three-year master's degree track, according to the university. Teaching students how to treat oral symptoms of various diseases and conditions is the aim of the program.
The program teaches dentists to be responsible for the early detection and diagnosis of oral cancer and other malignancies that manifest in the oral cavity. Dentists will be trained to treat the oral manifestations of infectious diseases, including HIV; autoimmune and immune-related diseases such as lupus; and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
Bhavik Desai, DMD, PhD, an assistant professor of oral medicine and temporomandibular joint disorder at the Virginia Commonwealth School of Dentistry, will begin as the program director on July 1.
Oral medicine is not yet recognized as a specialty by the ADA; the American Academy of Oral Medicine (AAOM) oversees the discipline and is responsible for certifying dentists in the field, according to Interim Program Director Arwa Farag. The program received accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) in August 2014.
The AAOM has encouraged the expansion of training programs, because there are only six other dental schools in the U.S. that offer training in oral medicine.
Only 3% of hospitals with cancer programs have oral medicine specialists, and patients are often directed to other departments that are not trained to handle medical issues such as head and neck cancers, according to the .
Residents in the program will work with other clinics such as the Cranofacial Pain Center, which sees 1,500 to 2,000 patients annually and allows residents to gain experience working with patients, according to the article.
Residents will also be required to do hospital rotations at the Tufts Medical Center in departments including internal medicine, hematology, dermatology, and rheumatology. They will also conduct visitations at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center and other Tufts facilities that serve patients with related needs.
If students choose to continue for a third year, they will do either clinical or laboratory research at the School of Dental Medicine, the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, or the Jean Mayer U.S.D.A. Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.