Being a Dentist
Most dentists will tell you that what they love most about dentistry is their patients and the diversity of their work. Every patient presents a new challenge and a new opportunity.
Dentists are licensed health care professionals who are trained in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease. This includes treating soft and hard oral tissues, restoring teeth, making cosmetic improvements and performing oral surgery.
Most dentists practice general dentistry, giving them the capability of providing comprehensive care to a wide variety of patients. Others limit their practice to a specialty like orthodontics, oral surgery, or pediatric dentistry.
Dentistry is a well-respected and prestigious profession. Dentists have the opportunity to develop rewarding life-long relationships with their patients, many times caring for multiple generations of the same family.
How to Decide
More regular visits to the dentist for dental cleanings and exams, an increase demand for cosmetic dental procedures and the fact that Americans are living longer and keeping their teeth longer is driving the demand for more dental care. Most people make their decision to pursue a career in dentistry while they are in high school or early in college. Future dentists need to have a variety of skills. If you enjoy people, are detail oriented, and have an interest in science or medicine, dentistry may be the right career for you.
Work & Lifestyle
After meeting state licensure requirements, dentists may practice anywhere in the state. Most dentists practice by themselves or as associates, partners or members of a group practice. Dentists also may practice for the government in the military, correctional or behavioral facility or a public healthcare facility. Dentistry can be a financially rewarding profession. A dentist's income will vary depending on the type of practice, number of hours in the office and geographic location. Your local dentist may be able to tell you what a new dentist can expect to earn in your area.
Requirements include a high school diploma, three or four years of pre-dental courses at an accredited college or university and four years of dental education at an accredited dental school. Dentists may receive a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).
Two to six additional years of training are required for dental specialties, including: orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, endodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, oral surgery and oral pathology.
A list of dental schools, and links to their web sites, is available from the American Dental Education Association.
Additional Information on Dentistry
American Dental Education Association