How to Become a Dentist
Dentist Job Description
Skills and Qualities of a Dentist
Dentist Salaries
Influential Professional Dentists
Leading Dental Organizations
Top Cities for Dentist Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Dentist

There are currently 56 dental schools accredited by the American Dental Association. All of these schools require a minimum of two years of college level education in a science related field. Most dental school applicants have a bachelor's degree, though a few are accepted after two or three years of college. These students complete their bachelor's degree while attending dental school. Pre-dental students must take science classes.

Competition for dental school is stiff. Applicants are considered on the basis of their Dental Admissions Test score, grade point average, recommendations, and interviews. Dental school usually lasts four years beginning with classroom instruction and lab work in science. During the last two years, students treat patients under the supervision of licensed dentists. Upon graduation, individuals usually receive a degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). All states require practicing dentists to be licensed. Requirements vary by state, but usually individuals must graduate from an accredited dental school before passing both written and practical examinations. Some dental school graduates work as an associate dentist under an established dentist for two to four years to gain experience and save money to outfit an office of their own. However, most dentists purchase an existing practice or open a new one upon graduation from dental school.

What does a Dentist do?

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth and mouth tissues. They also advise patients on oral care in an attempt to prevent future problems. Most dentists are general practitioners helping patients with a variety of needs from a routine oral exam at a dental cleaning and examining x-rays to removing tooth decay, filling cavities, and coating children's teeth with protective sealant. More extensive dental work done by most dentists includes teeth straightening, repair of broken teeth, corrective surgery on gums and the supporting bones, tooth extraction, and taking measurements and making models for dentures and mouth guards. Dentists will administer anesthetics for many of these procedures and write prescriptions for patients to use at home.

Dentists who are in business for themselves oversee the day to day administrative tasks of running an office. These tasks include bookkeeping, equipment purchases, and hiring and supervising of general office staff and dental hygienists, assistants, and technicians.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Dentist?

Dentists should have good interpersonal skills for working with patients and colleagues in the office. In addition, dentists must have diagnostic skills including good visual memory with excellent judgment regarding space, size, shape, and color. Those in this field also have good manual dexterity and scientific skills. Successful dentists with their own private practice also have business sense and self-discipline.

How much does a Dentist make?

Aspiring dentists can expect to be well paid in their chosen career. Dentists who are self employed tend to make more money, but will have to pay for their own insurance (notably malpractice insurance) and retirement. In addition, earnings vary based on the number of years an individual dentist has been in practice, office location, number of hours worked, and area of specialty. That said, in 2006, the median annual earnings of salaried dentists (those not in business for themselves) were $136,960. This has increased to a current median annual salary of $149,680.
Dentist Salary | More details for Dentist Jobs | Salary

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Greene Vardiman Black (1836-1915) is considered one of the fathers of modern dentistry in the United States. He researched several topics important to dentistry including amalgam fillings and the cause of brown stain (dental fluorosis). Black was the inventor of a foot driven dental drill and pioneered the use of nitrous oxide to remove teeth painlessly. He also put together Black's Classification of Caries Lesions which is still in use today with only one additional class. Black was inducted to the Pierre Fauchard Academy International Hall of Fame of Dentistry.

Dr. Rex Ingraham is one of only six people to ever receive University of Southern California's title of Distinguished Professor. He chaired the operative department at USC for more than 25 years and held several other positions in the school of dentistry department. Ingraham has written hundreds of articles and research reports regarding restorative dentistry. He has written two textbooks which are published in four languages. Dr. Ingraham is recognized as an authority in restorative dentistry and occlusion, has received numerous honorary degrees and awards, and has lectured in several countries.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

You have probably heard the American Dental Association mentioned in advertisements for toothpaste, mouthwash, and the like. Founded in 1859 with a current membership of over 155,000, the ADA is the both the oldest and world's largest dental association. This organization is dedicated to oral health of the public and professional advancement through advocacy, information, educational support, reputation, and networking. Members receive access to an online library of information, business resources, and local, state, and national seminars and conferences. In addition, the American Dental Association is considered the voice of dentists in Congress.

The American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) was founded in 1937 and is based out of Springfield, Illinois. This organization is open to anyone wishing to help improve the public's oral health. The broad based membership allows the AAPHD to provide a large network for the exchange of ideas and information. Members receive access to the membership directory and online access to the Journal of Public Health Dentistry.

What are the top cities for Dentist jobs?

Dentists should find open positions across the United States. Since many dentists are self employed, an individual hoping to set up a private practice should research the needs of the communities where he or she wishes to practice before making a decision. For those who are not looking to be in practice for themselves, Phoenix, Arizona, Los Angeles, California, and Houston, Texas are in a tight race for the city with the most openings. Other cities with openings include Chicago, Illinois, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Other Careers of Interest

Dental Assistant
Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory tasks while working closely with dentists and patients. Dental assistants...

Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists work with the dentist to provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services to dental patients. Their main focus is preventive...

Dental Technician
Dental laboratory technicians create crowns, bridges, dentures and other dental prosthetics. They may also manufacture dental appliances designed...

In general, an orthodontist examines, diagnoses and treats dental problems. This involves straightening and realigning teeth by applying pressure...

Pediatric Dentist
One of nine recognized specialties within the profession of dentistry, the pediatric dentist provides preventative and therapeutic care to minors,...

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