Dentist Training Schools & Degree Programs

Dentists do more than just examine your teeth. Dentistry involves a vast array of knowledge and training. Some of the more common duties that are outlined in the job description are:

  • filling cavities
  • analyzing mouth x-rays
  • cleaning and maintenance on teeth
  • pulling teeth
  • cleaning gums and removing tooth decay
  • making molds and measurements for dentures
  • performing minor mouth surgeries and providing patients with mild anesthesia
  • educating patients on proper care of teeth and gums, including brushing, flossing and diet

Dentists work with many patients on a daily basis, and they require some forms of protection while they are at work. It is important for a dentist to keep themselves and their staff protected from diseases; it is common for you to see a dentist and dental assistants wearing protective gear including, masks, glasses and gloves during treatment or examination. It is also important for a dentist to be mindful of patient safety while using tools of the trade:

  • high powered brushes
  • scalpels and other cutting tools
  • probes, mirrors and forceps

Dentists who work in privately practices handle all the day-to-day activities themselves. It is crucial for a practicing dentist to have office help; these dentists hire specialists like receptionists, assistants, technicians and hygienists to help them carry the weight of the practice. Dentists who focus more on general needs require a plethora of knowledge that allows them to handle many different patients and situation. However, there are different areas of specialization that require a certain individual with specialized training:

  1. Orthodontists: this is the largest group of practicing specialists; they fit for braces and retainers
  2. Oral Surgeons: this group does the minor and major surgical procedures on the mouth and the jaw
  3. Pediatrics: this group focuses on dentistry for children
  4. Periodontists: a group that treats the gum area and the bone that supports teeth
  5. Prosthodontists: these dentists work with fixtures like crowns and bridges; dentures and missing teeth
  6. Oral Pathologists: these qualified individuals study oral diseases

Dentist Job Training and Qualifications

It takes much dedication and schooling to become a licensed dentist in the United States. Before one is permitted to practice this trade, a license has to be applied for and earned. In order to apply for a license, one must graduate from an accedited dental school (ADA accredited) and pass many forms of written and practical exams. So, where to start if considering a career in dentistry?

Schooling begins after high school, being admitted to a college or University. Students who are wanting to do on to be practicing dentists have to first obtain a bachelor’s degree to be admitted to dental school. A few exceptions to this rule are granted for those who have obtained a two-year completion degree from a pre-dental education program. A strong knowledge of the sciences and a list of completed science courses is necessary to begin dental schooling. Students do not necessarily have to major in a related field, however; as long as prerequisite science courses are completed, outside majors are accepted.

Students who are wishing to be admitted to dental school should understand that the field is highly competitive. It is important to work hard throughout college courses, maintain a good GPA and consider getting recommendations from teachers or school officials. Admission to dental school is also based on applications, interviews, earned scores on the Dental Admissions Test and coursework GPA.

Dental school coursework includes:

  • First Two Years – Classroom and laboratory courses, including biochemistry, anatomy, techniques, microbiology and physiology
  • Second Two Years – Direct work under the direction of practicing dentists, working with patients in dental clinics

Dental school graduates earn the Doctor of Dental Medicine Degree or Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree. Practicing in other speciality areas means that students of dentistry must complete between 2 and 4 years of education after graduation from dental school and then pass a state exam. In the United States, about 17 states will give out licenses in specialty areas of practice. Doctors of Dentistry who wish to go on and teach or conduct any kind of research have to complete an additional training course that can last up to 5 years, and it is done through training that is received in hospitals or dental schools.

Dental training is hard work and takes a good amount of will power and dedication to the ultimate goal. Along with dedication, students need to be scientifically inclined, have good judgement, visual acuity, good coordination and be diagnostically skilled. Upon completion of all training courses, new dentists get their foot in the door by working for another dentist to gain experience, opening a private practice or buying an existing one.

Dental Job Opportunities

The prospect for 2012 dental openings looks good; there are a high number of dentists that are at the age of retirement. New dentists who are graduating dental school or have high aspirations for a career in dentistry have a good chance to get their foot in the business doorway. There will also be a need for dental care, as it never sleeps. Dental care is always improving, and preventative mouth care will always be prevalent.*

*According to the BLS,

Dental care is focusing more on prevention, focusing on education people on the basics of taking care of their teeth. New developments and research are also showing ways to technologically improve dentistry as a practice and make it more efficient and hopefully it will help elicit a less aversive reaction from patients.

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