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To Become a Dentist: Career Guide

Looking for a career that offers stable earnings while helping others? You may want to consider becoming a dentist. Here’s a quick guide to this well-respected profession.

Dentistry is among the most respected professions. You can either grow your practice or get hired by reputable institutions like hospitals, schools, or the government. Perhaps, there is no other professional you’ll visit more often than dentists. From childhood to senior year, you’ll go to the dental clinic at least once or twice a year, making them a regular part of our lives.  

Dentists take care of people’s oral health. Aside from maintaining those pearly whites, they also do a lot of other treatments and procedures to ensure healthy teeth, gums, and oral cavities of patients. There are different specialties within the field that you can specialize in, such as: dental public health, anesthesiology, endodontics, pathology, radiology, surgery, oral medicine, periodontics, pediatric dentistry, dental orthopedics, and prosthodontics.

There are a lot of opportunities for dentists, making it an excellent choice for high school graduates and job seekers. In fact, dentists consistently rank among the top 100 Best Jobs, placing 9th in the 2021 top careers. Apart from the personal satisfaction you get from helping people with their toothache or sore gums, dentists earn above-average salaries at around $164,010 average annual wage.

How to Become a Dentist?

According to dentists at teeth whitening clinic, Bajars&Bajars, dental professionals go through rigorous educational preparation, training, and licensure exam before they get licensed. Further specializations require more courses or training. If you’re considering a career in dentistry, here’s a quick overview of the process.

Earn a college course

The first requirement is to complete a bachelor’s degree. Although dental schools don’t require a specific major, natural sciences such as chemistry, biology, and others are best suited for dentistry. Bachelor’s degree is often a 4-year course, but some universities offer a 3-year pre-dental program. After completing college, you can take the Dental Admission Test (DAT).

Pass the Dental Admission Test

The next step is to sit for and pass the official DAT administered by the American Dental Association. The admission test is usually taken during your junior year of college. It consists of the usual admission test topics like quantitative reasoning, natural sciences, perceptual ability, and reading comprehension.

Enroll in a Dental School

Once you pass the DAT, you can enroll and complete a formal dentistry degree. Prepare the admission requirements like official DAT score, dental school admission documents, letters of recommendation, and curriculum vitae.

Dental schools offer two degrees – Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Although these degrees have differences, they are both recognized by state licensing boards. Depending on the dental school’s coursework, these courses typically take 3-4 years to complete. Dentistry programs include clerkships, clinical rotations, and on-the-job training to observe and learn from licensed dentists. Dental students are allowed to work on actual patients under the supervision of a certified dentist. This equips them with the skills and competencies needed in their practice.

Once completed, you will be conferred with either a DDS or DMD. Some dental schools combine these degrees, but this might lengthen the course of study. 

Pass Licensing Exams

Lastly, you must pass the national and state licensing exams to be fully licensed. The dental licensure exam consists of a written exam and a practical exam. The Dental Association’s Joint Commission for National Examinations conducts the written part while the state where you desire to practice administers the practical exam.

Aside from completing general dentistry, you can also take a doctorate or specialize in other dentistry fields for another 2-4 years plus residency training at a hospital. After the residency program, you need to sit for a specialty exam. This additional credential allows you to manage and treat more specialized cases. It also increases your competitiveness.

These are the basic steps towards becoming a dentist. Typically, it will take around eight years to become a full-fledged dentist and start your private practice or become hired. While the entire process can be long and tedious, you can never go wrong with starting a career in the dentistry field, especially if you have a passion for helping others.



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