How to Become a Dentist
Dentists are qualified medical personnel who ‘examine, diagnose and treat diseases, injuries and malformations of teeth and gums’ as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also advice patients on oral hygiene and deal with issues relating to nerve, pulp and other dental concerns. Specialized dentists, such as prosthodontists and orthodontists perform additional tasks as well.
If you want to become a part of this high growth field, the following guide on how to become a dentist in the US would be of great use to you.
Should I Become a Dentist?
According to the 2018 data reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dentists, General made an annual mean income of $175,840 in the US. California was the state with the highest employment levels for this occupation, followed by New York and Texas. The top paying states, in terms of annual mean income, were Delaware (264,440), Alaska (259,350) and Rhode Island ($254,190). The job outlook for this career is at a promising 7%.
Doctoral or a Professional Degree
Dentistry (for general Dentists)
Required in all states
Training required for specializations
Communication skills, dexterity, organizational skills, patience, problem-solving skills and attention to detail
Annual Mean Salary
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
If you are passionate about oral health and helping people achieve it, then a career in dentistry might be well suited for you. The occupation may give you the opportunity to work on your own hours, in case of private practice. Work schedules may vary as well.
In order to get into this field, you need to get a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry/Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Following this, candidates will need to apply for licensure through their state’s dental board, after passing the relevant written and clinical exams. Dentists who practice in a particular specialty will have to complete postdoctoral training in addition to the basic educational requirements.
Steps to Become a Dentist
Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree
This is the first step in the process to become a dentist in the US. Most dental schools in the US require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree before admission. Certain schools allow students to get admissions after 2 to 3 years of undergraduate study. Coursework you ought to have completed at this stage includes certain science courses, such as biology and chemistry.
Step 2: Clear the Dental Admission Test (DAT)
This is a standardized test used by dental schools across the country in the admissions process to assess the academic capacity and scientific knowledge of applicants. The admission committees use test scores, along with other factors, such as GPAs, interviews and letter of recommendations.
Step 3: Complete a Dental Degree
Dental School is for 4 years and at the end students get a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. Programs offered by dental schools are typically accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Standard coursework in dental programs revolves around subjects such as human anatomy, periodontics, local anesthesia and radiology. The first two years of this program would involve classroom and lab training, while the last two years would emphasize on clinical practice.
Step 4: Get Licensed
All states require dentists to be licensed to practice. Exact requirements may differ from state to state, though all candidates must pass the National Board Dental Examinations. This is a 2-part written exam that covers a wide variety of dentistry topics. In addition to this exam, candidates are also required to pass specific exams administered and approved by their state’s licensing board.
If you want to practice in a specific dental specialty, you will have to complete additional training and will have to get an additional license. The training would usually be in the form of a 2 to 6 years long residency program, depending on the area of specialization.