Dentistry - DMD, DDS

A career in dentistry allows you to help children and adults maintain strong teeth by avoiding or treating tooth decay and oral disease. Learn more about dentistry degree and training programs as well as career options.

Is Dentistry For Me?

Career Overview

If you want to pursue a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), you can first earn a bachelor's degree in dentistry or complete a pre-dentistry program to qualify for dental school. In a DMD or DDS degree program, you can focus your training to learn about adult or pediatric dentistry or choose from a number of specific dental specialties. According to the American Dental Association, the DMD and the DDS are equivalent degrees. You'll need a license to practice dentistry, regardless of your specialization, and you'll have to attain postgraduate education to become a particular type of dentist, such as an orthodontist.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most dentists are self-employed and work in private practice ( If you want to become a general dental practitioner, your dental services could include a variety of treatments. As a dentist, you'd give patients guidance in maintaining good dental health through brushing, flossing and eating correctly. Other dental duties usually include checking patient X-rays, diagnosing dental diseases and problems, straightening teeth, performing surgeries and fitting dentures.

Employment Information

The BLS reported that employment in dentistry would increase by 16% between 2012 and 2022 because of a growing population, particularly among the elderly. Though dentists typically make relatively high salaries, the BLS posted differences based on dental specialties. In May 2013, the average annual wage for general dentists was $164,570. However, orthodontists earned an average of $196,270, and oral surgeons made an average of $218,960 per year.

How Can I Become a Dentist?


As of 2014, The American Dental Association (ADA) accredited 65 schools of dentistry in the U.S. ( You'll need to complete at least two years of pre-dental postsecondary education and pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) to qualify for a dentistry program. Some schools allow you to earn a bachelor's degree in dentistry concurrently with your DMD or DDS, shortening the time required to complete both degrees by about a year.

In a DMD or DDS program, you'll take general courses in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and microbiology. Professional courses teach you dental procedures, terminology, oral pathology and the use of dental equipment. Lab work and clinical experiences make up a lot of your dental school time, and you'll be required to treat patients while working under the supervision of licensed dentists as part of your program and licensure requirements.


To become a licensed dentist, you need to graduate from an accredited dental school and pass a state exam. You might be able to substitute the National Board Dental Examinations for state-issued testing. To maintain your license, you could need to complete approved continuing education courses or activities in approved dental topics. Though not required, you could become board certified as a general or specialized dental practitioner through a professional organization, such as the American Board of General Dentistry or the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.

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  • What Does an Orthodontist Do? - Video

    Orthodontists are specialized dentists who work with patients to straighten teeth. It is a type of dentistry that requires specialized training. All Orthodontists must be a licensed dentist in order to practice.
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