What Education Is Needed To Become A Dentist?

The Formal Education Requirements for Dentistry

A significant formal education is required to become a dentist. There are a variety of degree programs available, job responsibilities and license requirements. After completing their undergrad studies, the student must attend a four year dental school. This is an excellent career path, but it takes a lot of hard work to be successful. Intense clinical and classroom training are required for all potential dentists prior to establishing a practice.

All dentists must secure a license with the National Board Dental Examination after graduating from dental school prior to establishing a practice. To maintain a license, the dentist must continue their educational requirements. This is mandatory. The potential dentist must have a dental degree and pass both practical and written examinations to receive a license. If a dentist decides to specialize in a specific field of dentistry, postgraduate training must be completed.

The Dental Degree

To become eligible for a dental license, the individual must attend and graduate from a dental school with an accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation through the American Dental Association. Dental school admissions are extremely competitive. To be considered, the student must pass the DAT or the Dental Admission Test. The schools consider a wide variety of factors for the admission process. This includes interviews, DAT scores and grade point average. The majority of students have a Bachelor’s degree when they enter dental school. In some cases, it is possible for the student to earn their bachelor’s degree while attending dental school.

Dental students must obtain either a DDS or Doctorate of Dental Surgery or a DMD or Doctorate of Dental Medicine. The DDS and DMD are both equivalent and each one requires the same four year programs and curricula. The first two years of schooling consist of clinical and natural science instruction in laboratories and classrooms. The second two years provide the students with on hand experience in dental clinics. The students are able to treat patients while under the supervision and direction of a skilled dentist.

The Postdoctoral Education

The majority of dental students do choose to practice general dentistry. There are some students who decide to become a specialist. These students must obtain a postdoctoral degree. There are nine recognized fields a dentist may decide to pursue as a specialty. This includes maxillofacial and oral radiology, periodontics and endodontics.

The Requirements for Licensing

A dentist has to obtain a license prior to starting a practice in the profession. Each state has their own specific requirements for a license. This being said, all states require the candidates to pass both a clinical and written examination. The National Board Dental Examination is multiple choice and has two parts. This examination is acceptable in every state for the written testing requirement.

The state dental boards administer the clinical examinations. Credits for continuing education must be earned by the dentists to maintain their licenses. The number of credits required are determined by the state. If the dentist chooses to become a licensed specialist, they are required to complete an addition two to four years of postgraduate education. In some states, the candidates are required to complete an additional two years of residency training and pass specialty exams.

The Employment Outlook

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a substantial increase for dentists between 2014 and 2024. This is due to the increased awareness of the importance of dental health and the advanced dental procedures needed by the increasing older population. There are approximately 129,000 general dentists licensed and practicing within the United States. The average yearly salary is $172,350.