So You Want to be a Dentist?

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If you have a mouth full of healthy teeth, you likely have your dentist to thank. A toothache is a terrible pain to suffer, and while we are often scared to visit the dentist, the relief we feel after a cleaning and check-up is refreshing.  Should you consider a career as a dentist?  Here are several factors to consider:

A dentistry work experience student observing her mentor performing a routine procedure. Education and Training:  In order to become a dentist, you must be prepared for an educational road similar to the length of medical school.  Though it is not required that your undergraduate major be in a science, it is useful for your dental school admissions applications.  You’ll need to take a minimum amount of science courses in undergrad (biology, chemistry, and physics) to qualify for admission to dental school.  In addition, you’ll need to score well on the Dental Admissions Test.  Admission to dental school is just as competitive as medical school, and it requires a grueling additional four years of training to become a Doctor of Dental Medicine or Doctor of Dental Surgery. In addition, you’ll need to pass the National Board Dental Examination and any state exams to become fully licensed to practice dentistry. The investment in time and money to become a dentist may seem high, but the working conditions and lifetime salary make this a competitive career choice.

Temperament:  Dentists work with all demographics across the population. Children, the elderly, and all ages in between are serviced by dentists.  You must be sensitive to the needs of all patients and be able to soothe their fears about the pain involved in dental work.  You must be able to communicate effectively with patients so that they understand the procedures they will undergo in the exam room. You must also have thick skin and not be easily offended by your patients’ dislike of their visits to your office; unfortunately, the fear of going to the dentist’s office runs deep among many, many people.  You must also be able to work as part of a team, since dentists typically work side-by-side with dental hygienists and other dental office support staff.

 

Students Hollie and Emily with their mentor in ObstetricsDaily Responsibilities: Dentists can count on a predictable schedule once they are established. Though the dentist does not typically do a patient’s cleaning, the dentist will thoroughly examine the teeth, gums, and tongue of his/her patient, looking for disease, decay, or infection.  The dentist will then create a treatment plan for the patient.  If needed, the dentist will also perform extractions, fill cavities, and write prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers. 

Career Outlook:  The dental field is particularly in need of minority and female dentists to service patients.   If you pursue a dental career, you can expect to earn one of the highest salaries available for medical professionals, averaging over $150,000 per year.  If you open a private dental practice, you can expect to earn even more.  Dentistry is an ever-growing field, as the population continues to increase, so you can expect to always be busy if you become a dentist and open your own practice.

If you are interested in a dental career, you’ll be rewarded with the respect of your local community and a comfortable lifestyle. The time and money you invest to become a dentist is well worth it! — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.

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