How Do I Become a Dentist?

DentistDentists are medical professional who are trained to treat the teeth and gums. A dentist also provides preventative care and treats oral problems so patients can maintain dental health. Duties that dentists perform include performing root canals, filling cavities and implementing tooth decay treatments. Dentists usually have a staff of hygienists and assistants who help them provide quality care to patients. The dental care the staff provides can include fluoride treatments, x-rays and teeth cleanings. To become a dentist, one must fulfill a number of educational and professional requirements.

Individuals who are interested in becoming dentists likely favor the idea of having their own businesses and are interested in conducting health research, according to the American Dental Association. A dentist also instills confidence in his/her patients by providing detailed information that will preserve a patient’s oral health. Dentists can also be particularly creative in their approach when teaching patients about ways to care for their teeth and gums. Since the schedule of a dentist can be pretty flexible, these health care professionals have the ability to balance their personal and professional lives.

Educational Requirements

Individuals who want to be dentists must receive a degree from an accredited dental school. Upon graduation, a dentist will receive either a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) or a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) degree. It typically takes four years for a dentist to receive his/her dental degree.

To be accepted into dental school, candidates should have already obtained a bachelor’s degree and passed the Dental Admissions Test. Dental schools also look at a potential student’s overall grades, recommendations and community activities to determine acceptance.

Employment As a Dentist

The Bureau of Labor Statistics asserts that dentists are in high demand. Through the year 2018, the field of dentistry is expected to grow by 16 percent, which is faster than the average career growth rate. Seventy-five percent of dentists are solo practitioners, which means about 30 percent of these professionals are self-employed and own their business either in full or partially.

Career Challenges

One of the main challenges that come with being a dentist is the years of education required. Dental school can also be very competitive and takes thorough preparation. Dentists also must handle the responsibility of being business owners if they want to own their own practice after graduating from dental school. This means learning financial responsibility and hiring a qualified staff to handle daily operations.

Certification and Licensing

Most states require dentists to have a license in order to practice. Obtaining a license may require a test that includes both a practical and written portion. Most states will accept the written portion of the National Board Dental Exam for licensure. Residency training, which usually lasts for about two years, is also required for dentists to be qualified to take patients.


The pay for dentists is substantial. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that $142,870 is the average pay for dentists. In general, dentists who have a private practice make more than dentists who are on salary.

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It’s important for individuals to evaluate their personalities and consider the time that will be spent in school before deciding to become a dentist. When a dentist is able to detect a disease or condition early in a patient, he/she could potentially save the patient a significant amount of health issues and medical costs.