How Do I Become a Dentist?

DentistWant to know how to become a dentist? A dentist is a medical professional with a doctorate level education who specializes in treating the teeth and gums of their patients. Some of their tasks include maintenance and preventative care for oral health, treating specific problems such as tooth decay and filling cavities, and performing root canals. There are additional specialized types of various dentists who focus on certain kinds of care such as pediatric dentistry (treating children) or periodontists (gum care).

In general, a dentist hires a staff which includes dental assistants and hygienists who assist in providing basic dental care such as fluoride treatments, x-rays, and teeth cleanings.

Following the steps to become a dentist includes the fundamental educational requirement of at least eight years beyond high school graduation. Upon dental school graduation, the future dentist obtains a license and can then start a general practice or else choose to further their education with an additional two to six years of more education in order to specialize in one certain area of dentistry.


Anyone interested in establishing a career in dentistry must first successfully complete a Bachelor of Science degree, usually a four-year program. Typically, the student follows either a pre-medical or pre-dental track and will major in a science like biology or chemistry. After that, the student acquires a DMD (Doctorate of Dental Medicine) or DDS (Doctorate of Dental Surgery) degree from a professional accredited dental school, both of which are four-year programs. Even though the titles are somewhat different, the degree is essentially the same. Most dentists work in general practice for awhile before choosing to specialize in one of the nine key areas of dentistry as recognized by the American Dental Association.


Dental school admission will require previous coursework in biology, physics, chemistry, and organic chemistry. The initial year in a dentistry program primarily focuses on specific sciences essential to the field including biomaterials, oral biochemistry and anatomy, fundamentals and histology of restorative dentistry. In the second year, the student is introduced to the different specialties, while both the third and fourth years primarily focus on intensive clinical study.

Various Types

Six training programs will require another 2 – 3 years for certification. For instance, a dental public health specialist works to prevent diseases in the local community and encourages good dental health, while endodontists treat dental diseases inside the teeth as well as perform root canals in order to save the infected teeth. Oral radiologists, on the other hand, diagnose and manage certain conditions and diseases by interpreting radiology images. A pediatric dentist addresses the unique dental problems of babies, children, and also teenagers. Prosthodontists use crowns to cover repaired teeth and use bridges, implants, and dentures to replace missing teeth, while periodontists specialize in treating gum disease and the harmful effects to the adjoining bone structure.

More Training and Specialties

For three other specialties, additional training is required including four to six years of further education beyond just the basic dental school requirements. Oral and maxillofacial dental surgeons operate on the mouth, neck, and head in addition to placing implants and removing wisdom teeth. They also provide consultation services for general dentists along with other doctors regarding certain oral conditions and diseases that affect facial structure as well as perform diagnostic tests and biopsies. Dentofacial orthopedists and orthodontists employ braces and other helpful devices to bring both the teeth and jaws back into proper alignment.

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Other basic requirements in order to become a dentist include exceptional communication and people skills, a strong affinity for science, and outstanding manual dexterity skills. People who desire a career as a dentist must handle several years of intense coursework as well as possess strong diagnostic abilities, a clear sense of color and shape, and good spatial judgment. They also require an acute ability to perform highly-detailed complex work on a permanent basis.

These are the primary requirements for anyone considering a career in the dental field and the overall facts on how to become a dentist.

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