The Road to Becoming a Dentist

There are few professions in the world that make the impact that dentists make. These incredible human beings take care of one of our most important assets: our teeth. Despite the fact that dentist make a tremendous impact there are a number of states that are dealing with a shortage of dentists. This is because the process to become a dentist is lengthy process. The process can be narrowed down to four simple steps: Earn a bachelor’s degree, taking the dental admission test(DAT), earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree and passing national and state licensing exams.

The first step to becoming a dentist is completing an accredited, 4-year bachelor’s degree program. There are some dental schools that accept students who have completed a three-year pre-dental program, but most students start with a four year bachelors program. Most students get a major in an area of science so that they can meet the requirements for a dental program. The program will most likely focus on subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics and calculus.

After completing a four-year program the next step is to take the dental admission test (DAT) There are two different types of degree programs in dental school. Each of these degrees takes four years to complete. Passing these tests ensures you are prepared for dental school training. It will be important to make sure the school chosen is fully accredited by the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Once the DAT has been completed the next step is earn a dental degree. There are two dental degrees that can be earned: a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree. Both of these programs are four year programs. Also they are are both recognized by state licensing boards. Many dental programs over a program where these two degree types can be combined with an advanced degree such as a MBA or a Ph.D. While in a dental program the first two years are usually focused on classroom study and laboratory projects. The last two years allow the student to gain clinical experience under the direction of a practicing dentist. Typical courses taken during these years include oral medicine and histology, operative dentistry and gross anatomy.

Once a person graduates from dental school the final step is to pass the required state examinations to become licensed. This step must be completed before a person can practice dentistry. The National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) is a pass or fail test that focuses on the sciences. There are both written and clinical portions of this test. This test will assess your dental qualifications and knowledge of biomedical and dental sciences. Many states will also require additional testing.

The road to becoming a dentist can be a long one. The rewards however are great. The average salary for a dentist is around $170,000 a year. Due to a dental crises in America there are expected to be many employment opportunities in the coming years. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that dentist provide a vital service that helps people look and feel good.