Royal Belgium Society of Stomatology and Maxillofacial Surgery
(Société Royale Belge de Stomatologie et Chirurgie Maxillofaciale)
(Koninklijke Vereniging voor Stomatologie en Mond-Kaak-en Aangezichtschirurgie)
The evolution of oral and maxillofacial surgery in Belgium is rather unusual and, to a certain degree, comparable to that of France, in that initially it was colleagues with a medical degree, who practiced dentistry, who organized themselves already in 1900 and established the “ Société Odontologique des docteurs en médicine de Belgique”. Some of these had had some formal dental training abroad but all of them practiced dentistry. These “pioneers” were, thus, no surgeons but medical doctors with some dental education. Four years later they renamed the society into “Société Belge de Stomatologie”. As of 1903, they came out with a quarterly journal that was later called Acta Stomatologica Belgica.
The first chair in Stomatology was established in Louvain, in 1905, and occupied by Auguste van Mosuenk. This was soon followed by similar appointments at the universities of Gent, Brussels and Liege.
Dentistry became an academic study in 1929 but its scope was limited to the treatment of teeth and its supporting tissues. As of 1934, the practice of dentistry was reserved for people with a dental degree and medical doctors with additional dental training. In 1956, Stomatology became an official medical specialty based on a medical degree with four years of dentistry and stomatology training. Many of these stomatologists still practiced mainly dentistry but some sought further training in maxillofacial surgery, particularly in France.
A major supporter of the profession and a tireless fighter for the status of the stomatologists was Robert Peiffer. He was instrumental for the expansion of
the scope of the specialty into maxillofacial surgery and in 1982 the competence of oral and maxillofacial surgery was officially recognized by the health authorities and the criteria to achieve this competence precisely described. Some 37 stomatologists, almost equally divided among the French and Dutch speaking colleagues, received this competence, which could be achieved by an additional two years of training after the stomatology training. The last step in this evolution is the formal recognition that candidates for training in oral and maxillofacial surgery need to have a medical degree (6 years)and a dental degree (3years), followed by a four year training in one of the six medical schools, including Leuven 2X, Brussels 2X, Gent, Liege, and Antwerpen. Part of the training is provided by some large training hospitals, were several consultants are practicing the full scope of OMFS. The content and quality of the training is supervised by special accreditation committees (French and Flamish).The training includes the full scope of the specialty with a growing emphasis on esthetic surgery of the face. It also includes oncologic surgery but colleagues that are interested in that part of the profession often follow a fellowship to gain expertise. In actual fact this scenario is rather similar to most European countries where dual degrees are required but in this country the origin of the profession stems from the stomatology which is still reflected in the name of the society. The adjunct “Royal” was granted in 1973 by the King.
The Society has currently some 250 members, whereas some 10 trainees per year are accepted. Almost all members are also member of the European Association. The Society holds two meetings a year and has a board with a President that alternates from the French and Dutch speaking region. The doyen of OMFS in Flanders is Luc Neyt who was the first to really begin a full scope practice in Bruges, in the early 70’s. The same is true for Herve Reychler but for the Walloons, who chairs the university department in Brussels and who trained many colleagues from the French speaking area. Another pioneer and specialist in Head and Neck surgery is Eric Fossion, who is both nationally and internationally recognized as an expert oncologic surgeon.
The highlights of the society were the jubilee congresses in 1975 and 2000, both in Brussels, were many guests from abroad were present and the two European meetings, in Brussels (1988) and in Bruges (2010), organized by the then Presidents of the EACMFS, Robert Peiffer and Maurice Mommaerts.