How to Become a Dentist

by | Jun 9, 2020 | Dentist | 0 comments

How to Become a DentistAre you about to graduate high school, but have no idea on what to pursue afterward? Perhaps you already graduated high school and are thinking of a career change?

You might want to consider a career in the public health sector. They are not only well-paying but also, are in high demand in the job market; their future outlook looks quite bright. This article will be exploring how to become a dentist, as it is among the most promising jobs in the public health sector.

What Does a Dentist Do?

A dentist is a health professional who diagnoses and treats conditions affecting the teeth, gum, and mouth. Their duties include tooth extraction, tooth replacement, and performing a root canal.

Dentists also give preventive care and general oral hygiene advice to their patients. Some operations done to improve the patient’s dental health may require the dentist to use local anesthetics and x-rays.

Very advanced cases may even necessitate surgical operations, which a dentist can undertake in conjunction with other specialized doctors. Such as those in the surgical fields.

How Much do Dentists Make?

We started off by saying that a career in dentistry is among the well-paying careers in the health sector. So just how much do dentists take home annually?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), on a median, dentists make about $156,240 per year; about $75.12 per hour. It is interesting to note that the median salary for Americans across all careers at the end of 2018 stood at $38,640.

So yes, your average dentist makes over $100,000 more than your average American worker. You can even say they earn higher than the average practitioner in the health sector doing general diagnosis and treatment. The BLS placed these health care workers’ median salary at $80,990 as at the end of 2018.

How Much do the Various Dentistry Specializations Make?

The field of dentistry has various fields with different specializations. Naturally, professionals within the various specializations don’t make the same amount. Below is a table giving a breakdown of some of the specialists and how much they earn annually.


Dentistry Specialist Median Salary (2018)
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons $208,000+
Orthodontists $208,000+
Prosthodontists $176,540
Dentists (General Practice) $151,850
Dentists (all other Specialists) $146,970


As you can see above, a career in dentistry is one that will probably give you financial freedom. Though your location and experience among other factors play a key role in how much you make.

Additionally, according to the BLS, the job growth rate in the dentistry industry stands at 7% over the period between 2018-2028. While the national average job growth rate stands at 5%.

How to Become a Dentist

Now that we got all the good news out, let us delve into the hard work towards becoming a professional in the field of dentistry.

  1. Enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree program

You need a bachelor’s degree to get admitted to a dental school. Some dental schools may deem a student legible for admission after they have undertaken 2-3 years of undergraduate studies. The coursework in their bachelor’s degree program will include biology, physics, and chemistry.

Pro Tip: If you join a mentorship program or the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). You greatly bolster your appeal for admission to dental schools. For instance, you can participate in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), which is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The program offers students within their first two years of undergraduate studies, a 6-week dental school preparation course at selected universities and colleges across the U.S.

2. Sit for the Dental Admission Test

To be admitted to a dental school, one must sit for and pass the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The test essentially tests the student’s academic capacity and scientific knowledge. The student must attain at least the minimum score to be granted admission to the dental school.

The test is also followed up by other requirements including, interviews, letters of recommendation, grade point averages, and the DAT score.

3. Enroll in the Dental Degree

After the dental school is satisfied with requirements in point ‘2’ above, you will now get admitted to pursue a dental degree. At the end of your four years of studies, the should end up with either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.

The coursework for the degree will include studies like oral pathology, orthodontics, pharmacology, radiology, periodontics, and dental anesthesia. In the last two years of their studies, the students will undertake a hand-on approach education under the supervision of a dental instructor. They will undertake clinical practices under supervision. The program may get additional accreditation from the American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation.

4. Getting Licensed

To legally practice dentistry, the students who graduated from dental school must get a license from their respective state. The requirements to be met by the would-be dentist for licensure by the state varies from one state to the other. However, some requirements are common across all the states. That includes passing the National Board Dental Examination.

It is a two-part exam touching on dental science, clinical procedures, and ethics. After passing that exam, there will be an additional practical exam administered and approved by the given state’s licensing board. Some states may also include further requirements such as qualification to administer first aid and CPR. There will also be some background check on the individual’s general conduct.

5. Take up a Line of Specialization

After obtaining the state licensing, a dentist can embark on general dentistry practice. However, if one chooses to further their knowledge. They can pursue further specialization in a given field of dentistry. That means enrolling for a post-DMD or post-DDS education options.

Some of ADA’s Council on Dental Education and Licensure recognized specializations in the dentistry industry include:

  • Oral and maxillofacial pathology
  • Orthodontics
  • Dentofacial orthopedics
  • Dental public health
  • Pediatric dentistry

Continued Learning Online

After the above formal training in dentistry, one is now ready to practice as either a general or specialized practice dentist. There are various online training by ADA one can take up, but they will not conclude with a certification or licensing.

Nonetheless, the online courses are recommended as they focus on the day-to-day running of a dental practice, learning new procedures and techniques in the industry.

Possible Places of Work Establishments for Dentists

Once you pass your formal education training and licensing as a dentist. There are several places of work establishments where you can work. They include:

  • Private Practice: A qualified and licensed dentist can start up their own private practice. The practice can be run as solo entrepreneurship or a partnership with two or more dentists joining up resources and skills to run the establishment.
  • Public Health Dentistry: This career path will lead the dentist to serve in a community setup instead of private practice. The dentist will be tasked with promoting the general dental health of the community, coming up with community health policies, and taking preventative measures against oral diseases that may pose a threat to public health.
  • Academic Dentistry: Qualifies and licensed dentists can decide to take an academic route for their careers. Where they will be discharging knowledge through teaching, research, and study. They will be working in an intellectually stimulating academic setup. You can find a lot of exciting opportunities on this route from the American Dental Education Association
  • Research: A dentist can also pursue a career in research and development (R&D) field, where they will be focusing on developing new knowledge. They will be dealing with cutting edge scientific research into preventative and curative oral health care. Some of the things they will be dealing with include how to use laser surgery and implants to replace damaged jawbones and the use of computerized X-raysts in health care.

Wrapping Up

Having read through this article, won’t you agree there is a lot of opportunities in the medical field of dentistry? Especially, if you take into consideration the fact that these days a lot more people want cosmetic improvements on their smile and general oral health.

Long gone are the days when people only visited dentists when in pain from a toothache. These days, people – especially those whose life of work requires them to be physically presentable – visit the dentist on a regular basis.

Compounded with the fact that people nowadays eat a lot of sugary foods; from meals served in breakfast, snacks, lunch, to dinner. People are now more predisposed to develop oral complications from all that sugary foods that pass through their mouths.

If you are currently mulling on what career to pursue after high school. Then a career in dentistry will be a good choice. Not only does the job pays well, but also, it is quite satisfactory to put a smile on someone’s face. The job growth prospects are also quite high, so you can be sure of some level of job security in this field of work.

Article provided by, Advocate Search Group – a recruiting firm focused exclusively on filling educator and administration positions at universities with health science programs (i.e.: nursing, allied health, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, etc.)

We welcome your inquiries….
Phone: 720-446-5700


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