Do you want to be a dentist? These healthcare providers work with patients to maintain their oral health and treat disorders of the teeth, mouth, and gums. They also educate their patients on how to maintain good dental habits and provide basic oral healthcare advice.
Despite the fact that dentistry is a tough career, many dentists find it gratifying. If you’re thinking about a career in dentistry, keep reading to learn about the steps you’ll need to take to become a licensed, practicing professional in the field, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.
Should I pursue a career as a dentist?
There are numerous benefits to working as a dentist: it is a lucrative career that is always in demand, it allows you to serve people, and it frequently provides a good work-life balance. It could be the path for you if you have a passion for science and want to make a difference in people’s lives.
At the same time, you should be aware of the difficulties that come with dentistry. Your education will take a long time to complete and will cost a lot of money. It can also be a physically and psychologically stressful occupation, and you may be exposed to contagious infections and illnesses. Furthermore, it’s a competitive field, both in terms of admission to dental school and obtaining patients once you’re in practice.
Is it worthwhile? That depends on your level of commitment and whether the benefits exceed the drawbacks for you. It’s a good idea to do some study on the profession and speak with current dentists to understand more about what it’s like to work in the area.
There are five steps to becoming a dentist
Get your bachelor’s degree.
Although there are some combined BS/DDS programs, you will almost certainly need to complete your bachelor’s degree before enrolling in dentistry school. You don’t need to major in anything special, although it’s a good idea to take a lot of science and math classes, as these are frequently required for dental school. Examine the required coursework at multiple reputable dental schools while you are still an undergraduate student. Do your best to be prepared for the financial aspect of your schooling and if need be, take a second look at your student loans and use tools like a student loan refinancing calculator to keep your student debt under control.
Pass the Dental Admissions Examination
For admission to dental schools in the United States, the Dental Admission Test (DAT) is necessary. Admission is quite tough, therefore you’ll need to put in a lot of effort to get a high mark on the exam. According to the American Dental Association, the average score is roughly 19 out of a possible 30. (ADA). It’s a good idea to look up the typical scores at the schools to which you’re applying to get a sense of your target score. Keep in mind that this is a significant part of your application.
Get a doctorate
Dental school lasts four years, with two years of classroom teaching and two years of supervised clinical practice, with the emphasis on developing the skills needed to operate as a dentist. Make certain that any institution you are considering is accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). It is important to note that if you want to specialize, your education will most likely take longer to complete. After graduation, you will be a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) (DMD).
Obtain a license
Before you may practice, you must first pass the National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE), which encompass areas like dental science, biomedical science, patient care and management, ethics, clinical procedures, dental anatomy, and more. You must pass a two-part written test as well as a practical exam. States have different criteria, so check with your state’s dental board to see what you’ll need to do to become licensed. In addition to completing the NBDE, you may be required to get CPR certification. Once licensed, you will be able to practice dentistry in the state where you have met these prerequisites.
Many dentists get experience through an associateship or residency before opening their own offices or working in a more advanced capacity. An associateship will place you in the office of a more experienced dentist.
You may also opt to specialize, which may necessitate postgraduate training. The ADA recognizes the following specialties:
- Anesthesiology of the teeth
- Public dental health
- Pathology of the mouth and jaws
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology
- Maxillofacial and oral surgery
- Dentofacial orthopedics and orthodontics
- Dental care for children
Dentists should have the following skills in addition to satisfying the licensing and academic criteria listed above:
- Management of Attention to Detail
- Excellent judgment
- Patience and the ability to work under pressure
How long does it take to train to be a dentist?
It normally takes roughly eight years to become a dentist, depending on how long it takes you to earn your bachelor’s degree (four years for your undergraduate degree and four years for dental school).
What courses should I do to become a dentist?
As previously stated, you do not need to major in a certain field to get admitted to dentistry school. There is no such thing as a pre-dental or pre-med major. Most dental schools, however, have unique coursework requirements. The majority of science degrees will prepare you for dentistry school. While the criteria differ from school to school, the ADA adds that the following are general requirements:
- Biology with lab for eight hours
- Physics for eight hours
- 8 hours of English 8 hours of General Chemistry with lab
- Organic Chemistry (8 hours) with lab
Discuss your plans with your advisor, who can assist you in staying on track. Pre-dental or pre-health careers counselors at your school may also be available to assist you. Make sure to look over the course requirements at other dental schools as well. You’ll need a strong GPA because entrance to dental school is quite hard.
Is it necessary to attend medical school to become a dentist?
Dentists are not required to attend medical school, but they must attend a CODA-accredited dental school. Although there is some overlap in the curriculum during your school, medicine and dentistry are both respected professions that require different attributes and skillsets.