How To Become a Dentist
A dentist looks after the oral hygiene of their patients, both preventing and treating diseases of the gums, teeth, and mouth. Most dentists work in small medical centers or surgeries, and are, for the most part, self-employed. Once you are qualified as a dentist, you can look forward to excellent job security, a good income, and a varied role. If you're interested in medicine and healthcare, and also have a genuine interest in people, then a career as a dentist could suit you perfectly.
Education Requirements to Become a Dentist
To qualify to become a dentist you will need to complete four years of college, followed by four years at dentistry school. Attending a college that offers a pre-dental program is advisable. During your time at college, you'll need to make excellent grades in the sciences.
After you complete your undergraduate degree, most dentists complete a Bachelor's Degree, you will need to take the DAT, or Dental Admissions Test. Your scores on this test, as well as your results from college, will determine your entry into dental school.
The first two years of dental school are for the most part made up of theory. You'll be doing work in the classroom, as well as in the laboratory. The second two years are made up of practical work, in hospitals, as well as in clinics. While you're a student, you will work under the supervision of qualified dentists. After completion you will be awarded with a Doctorate in Dental Medicine, or a Doctorate in Dental Surgery.
After graduating from Dental School, you will also likely need to pass an exam set by the state board to become a dentist. This will depend on which state you live in. Once you pass, you will be granted your license to practice.
Dentist Job Description
- Communicate with patients and family members
- Diagnose and treat disease of the teeth and gums
- Perform extractions, and other surgeries
- Take X-rays
- Clean teeth
- Prescribe medication
- Educate patients about oral care and hygiene
Apart from general dentistry, there are eight specialist fields that a dentist perform.
- Orthodontist - straightens teeth, fit and align braces
- Oral Surgeons - Complete surgery on the mouth or jaw
- Endodontists - Treat and diagnose disease of the inside of the tooth
- Oral Pathologists - Treat and diagnose disease of the mouth
- Periodontists - treat and diagnose disease of the gum
- Pedodontists - specializes in oral care for children
- Prosthodontists - replace missing teeth with prosthetics
- Public health dentists - work in research and develop education programs
Dentist Salary and Career Path
Specialty fields can be pursued with further study an training, and can offer a much larger pay package. Many dentists branch out into new and growing areas like cosmetic dentistry, or become specialists in a niche such as denture work. Some will go on to work exclusively with children, or elderly populations. Some dentists go on to administrative or managerial careers in larger clinics and hospitals, while others become teachers or professors at colleges.
The median salary for a dentist is about $130,000 per year. A new graduate working in a public hospital may earn around $60,000 per year, while a specialist dentist in private practice could earn as much as $300,000. The employment outlook is good, this is a career that will always offer you job security. It's also a role that will offer much variety from day to day, as well as opportunities to take on further training and grow professionally. Another attraction of working as a dentist is that is means you are able to work for yourself and own your own business.
The growth in dentistry is around the same as that of many other industries. However, the high median age of dentists mean many are set to retire within the next 5-10 years, as a result there will be many new job opportunities for dentists.
When you become a dentist, it can be rewarding, especially if you gain satisfaction out of helping people. If you have a good head for science, as well as a personable nature, then this is a career path well worth perusing. While there is quite a large amount of study involved, the job satisfaction, security, and salary make it well worth the hard work.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics