Becoming a Dentist

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When you choose dentistry as your chosen medical line, there are several specialties that you can choose from within this line.  Apart from general dentists, there are also specialized dentists who focus on gum care, pediatric dentistry or cosmetic dentistry. Typically, a dentist employs staff that will include dental assistants and dental hygienists. They help in providing basic care like x-rays, teeth cleanings, and fluoride treatments.

 

Dentistry work experience student Rhia learning practical skills whilst on her hospital placement in Thailand. Educational Requirements 

In order to become a practicing dentist in the United States you will have to first obtain a degree from any dental school that is accredited. Typically, you will obtain either a DMD or a DDS degree. The degree you get depends on the school that you have attended. Technically, both these degrees are the same but carry a different name. D.D.S is Doctor of Dental Surgery, and D.M.D is Doctor of Dental Medicine. The training & education for both these degrees is almost identical. Dental school is a 4-year graduate program.

Acceptance to a Dental school requires you to have a bachelor’s degree, and you have to clear the DAT- the Dental Admissions Test. Other requirements may vary, but like medical schools, the dental schools will also take a number of factors into consideration. This includes:

 

  • Grades
  • Coursework
  • Essays
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Admissions test scores
  • Various recommendations
  • Personal interviews

In order to improve your chances of acceptance into a dental school, working or volunteering in a dental office while you are in college or high school helps. This will enhance your understanding about this field and will help you obtain real-life experience. In many cases, this transfers into your testing and coursework. 

You do not required to major in science while in college, but it definitely helps. Apart from this, you are also required to meet the prerequisites of the dental school. The courses that are recommended include organic chemistry, biochemistry, general biology and physics. 

 

The Challenges 

Dentistry is no doubt a rewarding field but it is very challenging, just as most other healthcare careers are. You are required to have a high level of education. Tuition costs can be prohibitively high and competition is rife. Apart from this, the career itself is a challenging one. Dentists have to handle all the responsibilities of a business ownership apart from their work. 

Managing the administrative and financial aspects, such as management and hiring of personnel, can be a time-consuming & stressful task. Another major concern is that in dismal economic conditions, there can be a drop in patient volumes and this can set you back financially. However, proper planning and management can make dentistry a very rewarding career. 

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