Dentistry: A Great Career Path and How to Get There

Dentistry is a lucrative and rewarding career to go into. Here's why it's a great choice, what to know about field specializations, and how to get started.

Choosing a major and career path can be challenging, especially with so many professions to choose from. A close look at labor statistics today reveals that medical science remains one of the most promising careers. If you choose to become a dentist, it’s even better. Dentistry combines creativity, flexibility, and job satisfaction in equal measure. If you've been skeptical about choosing dentistry as an educational path because you're not sure what it really entails, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn why dentistry is a great career choice, what areas you can specialize in, and how to become a dentist.

Why dentistry is a great career choice

Dentistry is a significant medical profession. Sadly, many people fail to recognize the essential role that dentists play in ensuring a person's oral and overall well-being. This is why you'll find people taking their dental appointments with levity, forgetting that their oral health is just as important as their mental and physical health. Dentists perform a unique role in society that no other medical worker can confidently perform. In the same way that society can't do without a brain or heart surgeon, dentists are also indispensable members of the community.

Dentistry is a popular and profitable career, so much so that it ranks ninth out of the 100 best jobs in the US. Here are just some of the reasons why you should become a dentist.

Job satisfaction

Dentistry is one of few careers that offer maximum job satisfaction. The knowledge that you’re instrumental in restoring a person's self-esteem and confidence simply by helping them take care of their oral health is immensely fulfilling on its own. As a dentist, you help people live a better quality of life, and nothing brings satisfaction as much as adding value to others’ lives.

Related: 5 Tips High School Students Considering a Career in Medicine

Being your own boss

As a dentist, you can easily set up your own private clinic, which makes you the boss. You can decide the number of patients you see daily and when you see them. You can also carefully select your staff so they all have the same work ethic as you.

Flexible schedules

Health workers in other fields will tell you just how hectic it can be to practice medicine. They have to work around the clock to care for their parents, and some have to sacrifice family time for their careers. Luckily, you don't have to deal with this as a dentist. As your own boss, you can plan your working hours to suit your schedule. You can even choose to take weekends off so you have more time for your family or hobbies.

A good salary

Another reason to become a dentist is that you can start earning a decent salary very early in your career. Since dentists can charge $250–$700 for a regular check-up, you'll be doing quite well for yourself just a few years into your career. In the United States, the average income of a dentist is $164,010 per year, or $78.85 per hour.

Job security

If you're still not convinced about becoming a dentist, perhaps job security will help make up your mind. As a dentist, you won't live in constant fear of job layoffs because there is—and always will be—a huge demand for dentists. The job outlook remains bright for dentists. No one is going to tell you not to come to work anymore because they can't afford to pay you.  

Related: How to Evaluate a Health and Medicine Program

Areas of specialization in dentistry

Dentistry is a vast field with different areas of specialization. Below are the areas you can practice or focus on in college. 

Orthodontics

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who deals with the diagnosis and treatment of misaligned teeth and jaws. It’s the job of the orthodontist to correct the position of your teeth gaps or abnormalities of the jaw with non-surgical procedures such as braces, wires, and retainers. Correcting tooth misalignment improves a person's smile and ensures that teeth function effectively.

Pedodontics

Pedodontists are pediatric dentists who are trained specially to attend to the oral health of children and teens. They help children with space management when they lose their baby teeth prematurely and advise them on avoiding habits like teeth grinding and thumb sucking. They also advise on proper nutrition for children to help them maintain strong teeth and healthy gums.

Periodontics

Periodontic dentists are gum specialists. They help in the prevention and treatment of gum diseases and oral inflammations. Periodontists use scaling and root planning to get rid of plaques and tartar deposits that can lead to gum disease, after which they smooth out all the rough areas to make your gums healthier and more attractive. They also help in the placement and maintenance of dental implants.

Endodontics

Endodontists are specialists trained to treat infections inside a tooth. They diagnose and treat issues within the root canal (small passages inside the teeth that contain blood vessels, nerves, and pulp). When a person has an infected pulp, they need an endodontic or root canal therapy. 

Related: Career Spotlight: Orthodontics

Oral and maxillofacial surgery

Oral and maxillofacial surgery focuses on the treatment of issues that have to do with the mouth, jaw, and facial tissues. When you need an oral surgical treatment that calls for sedation or complex procedures, you need the services of an oral surgeon. Apart from anesthesiologists, only oral surgeons can administer all levels of sedation.

Prosthodontics

A prosthodontist is a replacement specialist trained to restore and replace damaged teeth. These professionals are skilled in dental procedures such as porcelain veneers, bridge repairs, crowns, dental implants, and reconstructive dentistry. If you need teeth repair or tooth replacement, your dentist may advise you to see a prosthodontist.

How to become a dentist

To become a dentist, you must be ready to invest in your education. You need to have at least a bachelor's degree to apply to dental school. Almost all dental schools in the US require the completion of a four-year program; this means it will take you approximately eight years to become a dentist—four to earn your bachelor's degree and another four at dental school. To gain admission to a dental school, you'll need to meet the school's requirements, such as having a good Dental Admission Test (DAT) Score and a good letter of recommendation. After completing dental school, you’ll be awarded either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). 

Related: Great Health and Medicine Colleges in New England

Choosing a career in dentistry can be one of the best life decisions you make. However, it's not enough to just have a desire to become a dentist; you must be willing and ready to put in the hard work needed to transform your dream into reality. You need to take your education seriously and arm yourself with a quick mind and the right work ethic to succeed in this career. 

Start searching for colleges with great Pre-dental programs using our College Search tool.

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