How Long Does IT Take to Become a Dentist?

Explore the career options for dentists and find out how long it takes to train for them. You'll also get information about degree and licensure requirements, job prospects and salaries for these professionals. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Dentists diagnose and treat injuries, diseases and malformations related to oral health. They also conduct regular check-ups to instruct and encourage their patients to take care of their teeth. The journey to become a dentist is long and lasts between eight and 12 years. Check out the following table for more details.

Degree Required Doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Dentistry
Training Required 2-4 years of residency training for specialists
Key Skills Complex problem solving, communication, critical-thinking and monitoring skills; dexterity, patience and attention to detail
Licensure State license required
Job Growth (2016-2026) 19%*
Median Annual Salary (May 2017) $158,120*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Does a Dentist Do?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a dentist's work includes repairing and removing decayed, cracked or fractured teeth, conducting examinations, prescribing medicines and educating patients about dental health and care, among other things. A general dentist treats various dental problems, whereas specialists treat specific dental diseases or problems that require an expert's attention, such as performing complicated dental surgery or fixing the alignment of teeth and jaws to maintain normal function.

Do I Need a Degree?

An undergraduate degree plus a doctoral degree is required to become a dentist. Therefore, individuals are required to attend around eight years of school to earn both degrees.

Prospective dentists can can choose between a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) and a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) program. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), they are the same degrees with the same curriculum. This curriculum includes coursework on basic sciences, dentistry, and behavioral sciences. During the final years, students work with patients under the supervision of licensed dentists to gain clinical experience.

What Are the Training Requirements?

No additional training is required to become a general dentist, as all the necessary education is provided in dental school. However, additional postdoc training is required to become a dental specialist. Individuals interested in a specialty must complete a residency lasting between two and four years, depending on their area of interest.

Do I Need to Be Licensed or Certified?

It is mandatory to hold a state license in order to practice dentistry. Although the licensure requirements vary from state to state, the basic requirements (apart from holding a degree from an accredited dental school) include clearing a written examination and a clinical examination. Dental specialists must also hold a license in their specialty. After completing residency training, they might be required to pass another exam in some states.

What Are the Job Prospects?

The demand for dentists is projected to increase in the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this demand is a result of an aging population that will require frequent dental work. Moreover, some areas in the United States have little access to dental care, so employment opportunities in these areas should be good. The median annual wage (May 2017) for dentists was $158,120. The top 10% of the industry earned $208,000 and above, while the bottom 10% earned $70,000 and below.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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