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What Are Some Popular Careers in Dentistry?

There are a number of jobs options and specializations to choose from in the field of dentistry, such as orthodontist, pediatric dentist and endodontist. Read below for details regarding some popular careers in dentistry.

A Career in Dentistry - The Basics

Dentistry careers involve the overall care and treatment of patients' teeth. Dentists not only treat dental problems, but also work to educate patients on proper care for their teeth. They may use drills, scalpels, mouth mirrors and X-ray machines to examine teeth, remove decay, fill cavities or straighten teeth. Dentists may work as a general practitioner, or they may practice in a specialization area. There are nine dentistry specialization options currently recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA): dental public health, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, endodontics, periodontics and prosthodontics.

Important Facts About Dentists

Median Salary (2018)$156,240
Job Outlook (2016-2026)19% growth
Key SkillsDexterity, stamina, leadership, organizational skills
Similar OccupationsPhysician, dental hygienist, chiropractor, veterinarian

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Licensure Requirements

The road to becoming a dentist starts with four years of undergraduate study, then students must apply to dental school. Most dental education programs require students to complete four years of intensive study and clinical training and result in a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD). Dentists who choose to pursue a specialization must also complete a 2-4 year residency in that area.

Dentists are required to be licensed. Though requirements may vary by state, they typically include graduating from an ADA-accredited dental school and passing written and clinical exams.

Career Options

Graduates of a dentistry program may begin a career as a general practice dentist, or they choose a specialization. Below are a few of the popular careers in dentistry.

Orthodontist

An orthodontist is a dentist that specializes in the treatment of misaligned jaws and teeth. Orthodontists often use braces and other appliances to move teeth into the correct position. They may also utilize retainers to correct an overbite or underbite.

Pediatric Dentist

Pediatric dentists specialize in the dental care of children from infancy through their teen years. To practice this type of dentistry, one must complete general dental school training and at least two years of residency training in the treatment of youth. Pediatric dentists help assess the risk of cavities in children and may exercise preventive oral health care measures, such as fluoride treatments.

Endodontist

An endodontist is a dentist that specializes in matters related to the inside of the tooth. Endodontists are trained to work with the blood vessels and nerve tissue that makes up the tooth pulp. When damage has progressed from the outside to the inside of the tooth, the treatment of an endodontist is generally required. This treatment often involves a root canal procedure.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons operate and do surgical procedures on the head and neck area, including the mouth, teeth and jaws, to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases. Some surgeons may also perform surgeries to improve the patient's appearance.