Have you ever thought about becoming a dentist? It involves a lot of schooling, hard work, and dedication, but overall, it is an excellent career. It’s a unique field and consistently lands a spot on the U.S News & World Report’s top 100 jobs. In the year 2022, Dentists ranked #47.
If you’re passionate about tooth health, work hard, see yourself wearing scrubs every day, and love helping others, dentistry may be the right path for you. If you’re serious about a career as a dentist, a great way to learn about the field is by shadowing a dentist to observe their day-to-day schedule. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their journey as a dentist.
Now let’s talk about dentists’ schooling and specialty options.
The education to become a dentist starts with a four-year degree, preferably in a major that involves biology, anatomy, and chemistry, which are usually the main prerequisites for dental school. You’ll typically take the DAT (Dental Admission Test) during your junior year. Admission into every dental school requires the DAT, administered by the American Dental Association. Your DAT score is essential for the dental school application process. While dental school is pricey, dental scholarships are available to help offset the costs.
You’ll earn either a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) or a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). The two degrees essentially mean the same thing. Dental school involves a rigorous curriculum, including lab work and classroom learning. The last two years typically include a dental internship.
After completing four years of a DMD or DDS program, you must obtain a license to practice as a dentist in your desired state. You must take the National Board Dental Examinations and clinical exam. Each state’s requirements are a bit different.
Upon passing the boards and graduating from dental school, dentists can choose to practice general dentistry right away or do a residency. Residency offers further training for those in general dentistry and rotations for other dental specialties.
If you choose to specialize, your options include periodontics, oral surgery, pediatrics, and orthodontics, to name a few. Post-graduate specialty programs can take 2-6 years to complete and often require a two-year residency. A dentist can also choose to obtain a Ph.D. in their respective field of health sciences.
Finally a Dentist
Becoming a dentist is a long and rigorous journey. Still, once you’ve completed the schooling, passed the boards, and become licensed, you can finally start practicing. A typical first job for a dentist may be working as an associate dentist in a private or corporate dental office. Many dentists eventually own their practice or partner with another dentist at their practice.
Dentists make a generous salary, often only work four days a week and have weekends off, and have flexible schedules. Depending on the setup of their practice, they can choose when to book their appointments. Dentists can virtually always find work because almost everyone goes to the dentist–or at least they should! Dentistry is a necessity; the field will always be around, making it a stable career choice.
A day in the life of a general dentist consists of performing dental exams after teeth cleanings, filling cavities, pulling teeth, checking for any health concerns, and sometimes referring patients to specialists. Dental hygienists perform dental cleanings and often work closely with the dentist to assist them during procedures.
A dentist should have a naturally caring personality and a desire to be around people every day. Dentists need to be friendly, have good attention to detail, communicate well, and be good at building relationships with their patients to ensure they’ll come back and keep their business going. Dentists must also be good listeners to effectively understand their patients’ needs and sometimes help them work through their fear of the dentist. It’s essential to create an inviting and trusting environment for patients.