A dentist is a medical professional who diagnoses, treats and helps prevent problems with teeth, gums and the mouth. Dentists are trained professionals who are very much in demand and are expected to see a job growth of 19% from 2016-2026 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Learn what it takes to become a dentist. Also, learn more about our dentist – Dr. Ali Shmara.
Aspiring dentists must first complete an accredited bachelor’s degree program. Students complete general education courses and major-related courses. They typically also complete specific courses relevant to a dental program, such as organic chemistry, physiology, biology, physics, human genetics and calculus. Some colleges offer a curriculum specifically for dental students.
Upon completing the undergraduate program, candidates can take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) to determine readiness for dental school. The school may also use other factors when determining whether to admit a student to their school, such as recommendations, personal interviews and GPA. When choosing a dental school, it’s important to choose a school accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. This is one of several requirements for licensure. There are more than 60 accredited dental schools. The dental school takes four years to complete.
The first two years have the student completing classroom and lab classes with the final two years dedicated to clinical education. Dental students complete classes like gross anatomy, operative dentistry, histology and oral medicine. Graduates can earn either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree.
Once the student earns the degree, he or she must pass the National Board Dental Examination, which includes both written and clinical parts. This is necessary before the individual can obtain a license to practice dentistry in their state. To become a licensed dentist, the individual must satisfy these three requirements: education, written examination and clinical examination.
Dental graduates can obtain licensure in general dentistry or choose a specialized area of dentistry. Areas of specialization include:
• Oral and maxillofacial surgery
• Oral Medicine
• Oral pathology
• Pediatric dentistry
Candidates who choose dental specializations must complete an additional 2 to 4 years of postgraduate study as well as a 2-year dental residency. They also need a license in their specific specialization, which also requires passing a state test. Dental specialists may also choose to obtain voluntary board certification in their specific area of dentistry.
Dental licenses are valid for a certain number of years. To maintain licensure, dentists must complete continuing education courses. For instance, dentists in Alabama must complete 20 hours of continuing education every year while Arkansas must complete 42 hours every 3 years. Every state has its own set of rules and requirements regarding licensure, so aspiring dentists should check with their State Board of Dentistry.
Dentists who are interested in careers in research or teaching are required to complete a few more years of advanced dental training. Depending on if the individual wants a career in general dentistry or in academia, the education requirements can be anywhere from 8 to 16 years. Also learn about our hygienist services.