Dentistry is the branch of the healing arts and sciences devoted to maintaining oral health. It is a dynamic health profession, offering opportunities to become a successful, highly respected member of the community.
Dentists enjoy excellent compensation and the high demand for dental care is likely to continue in the future. The realization that oral health can have a serious impact on systemic health drives the expansion of new professional opportunities each year.
A degree in dentistry offers a number of career options, including:
Dentists are trained to treat all patients, adults and children, in many different treatment facilities and settings. In doing so, a general dentist may:
Evaluate the overall health of their patients including taking and evaluating comprehensive medical histories.
Provide instruction and advice on oral health care and preventive measures to maintain healthy oral tissues and prevent oral disease.
Approximately 80% of all dentists are general dentists. Additional experience, training or education beyond a DMD or DDS allows general dentists to further specialize in the following fields:
The American Dental Education Association Launches GoDentalSM
The American Dental Education Association (ADEA), Division of Educational Pathways has launched GoDentalSM, a new career building and social networking site. GoDentalSM is the official web resource for up-to-date information for people on the pathway to dental education and exciting oral health careers. It offers an interactive experience for networking, community development, and engagement. For more information, see announcement about launch.
To learn more, watch the video profile of "Dentists, General" and hear why ADEA Video Mentors decided to pursue careers in dentistry.
To meet a dentist, see the NIH "Lifeworks" Website. For a listing of accredited dental schools in the United States, see the American Dental Education Association or American Dental Association Websites.
Approximately 90% of all dentists are engaged in delivery of care through private practices. Fulltime dentists spend approximately 36 hours per week in their practices, of which 33 hours/week is spent treating patients. They have great flexibility in determining the number of hours per week they choose to work.
The remaining 10% of dentists teach in dental education programs, conduct research, and/or deliver care in the Armed Forces, the Indian Health Service, the U.S. Public Health Service, or other clinical settings. Dentists engaged in teaching, research or related positions generally work regular 40-hour workweeks.
My Experience in Public Health Dentistry
New Jersey Dental School Postgraduate Student, Prosthodontics
Maryse Manasse, DMD, loves making people smile. That’s why she is earning a postgraduate degree in Prosthodontics, or restorative dentistry.
Dedicated to recruiting students from underrepresented minorities, so graduates can reach out to all communities
New Jersey Dental School—one of the eight schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey—was founded in 1956 and has a proud tradition of educational excellence. Since its inception, the school has been dedicated to recruiting students from underrepresented minorities, so graduates can reach out to all communities.
The Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry, Temple University, is the second oldest dental school in continuous existence, chartered 134 years ago in 1863.
Public Health Dental Clinic - Savannah, Georgia
Providing oral health care to people who would not otherwise receive it is the most rewarding aspect of my career. I am grateful that I chose a career where I can really make a difference.
Part 1:How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Federal Versus Private Loans: Do Your Homework!
Part 2: Anxiety and Its Impact on Performance:
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Managing Expectations: The Relationship Between Student Loan Debt and Salary
Four Reasons to Pursue a Military Dental Career
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ADEA Announces Dental School Virtual Fair
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Do’s and Don’ts When Applying to College (Part I)
American Dental Education Association Launches GoDental
Accreditation Matters: (Part I)
Interprofessional Healthcare Education Means Better Patient Care
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Applying for Financial Aid (Part II)
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Why Diversity Matters in the Health Professions
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The Power of Prevention
To practice dentistry in the U.S., you must graduate from an accredited dental school. The length of educational training beyond high school is generally 8 years, including (a) a bachelor's degree, and (b) four years of dental school. Some dental schools consider individuals without a bachelor's degree, if they have completed a minimum of two years of full-time college study. However, preference is given to candidates who have a college degree by the time they enter dental school. Search for schools that provide training for this career.
NOTE: An increasing number of dental schools are offering dual degree programs -- i.e., D.D.S.-D.M.D./Ph.D, DDS-DMD/MPH, DDS-DMD/MBA
In order to be accepted into dental school, you have to take the American Dental Association's Dental Admissions Testing Examination.
There are 56 accredited dental schools in the U.S., and one new dental school is planning to accept its first entering class in 2008. In making admissions decisions, dental schools consider many factors, which may vary from one school to another. For example, many state-supported dental schools are required to accept a majority of students who reside in their home state.
General criteria used in making admissions decisions include:
Schools also look at a candidate's personal qualities, which can be reflected in the application and through letters of recommendation. For example, they may consider:
You do not have to be a science major in college to be admitted into dental school, but you do need to take certain biology, chemistry, and physics courses while in college. Work with a health professions advisor while in college, to develop a well-rounded course of study that best meets your needs. Pre-dental students also are encouraged to join pre-dental clubs, talk with practicing dentists, and if possible "job shadow."
In many states, after graduating from dental school and passing your licensing examination, you can begin practicing dentistry immediately. No internship or residency is required. In several states, a one year post-doctoral residency is required in lieu of a licensing examination. Dental school graduates can opt for additional training, either in general practice dentistry or in one of the nine recognized advanced dental education specialties:
NOTE: Dental school tuition may be daunting, but you may be eligible for a generous loan repayment program offered by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofascial Research. (NICDR). For other ideas on funding your dental education, see the Find Funding section of this Website.
More information about the dental school application process is available at the American Dental Education Association website. The 2011 ADEA Office Guide is now available for purchase. You also can connect with other dental students via
The timeline listed below offers a general guide for undergraduates planning to attend dental school. It is not a rigid timetable. Variations may occur, based on the curriculum of the college or university you are attending, as well as your background and career interests. Use it as a guide to planning your undergraduate education
While many pre-dental students are science majors (e.g., biology, pre-dental, chemistry, etc.), a science major is not required for admission to dental school. Dental school pre-requisite courses vary by dental school, but generally include, at minimum, one year of study in each of the following areas: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. Check the admission requirements of the schools that you are considering for additional required courses. Many admissions committees are favorably impressed by applicants with varied academic backgrounds including majors such as business, social sciences and the humanities.
Join a pre-dental or pre-health professions club at your school. This is a great opportunity to meet other like-minded students, to network, to become involved in community service and to form study groups for your science courses. Meeting upper-class pre-dental students gives you the opportunity to learn about the dental school application process.
Participate in a summer academic enrichment program like the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program http://www.smdep.org/. This program is a free (full tuition, housing, and meals) six-week summer medical and dental school preparatory program that offers eligible students intensive and personalized medical and dental school preparation.
Identify a strategy to prepare for the DAT. Obtain a sample DAT test from the American Dental Association (no charge). Consider purchasing a DAT review book and/or a CD that offers sample tests. Some students opt to enroll in DAT review courses, offered at dental schools, colleges and universities, and by private companies. Some of these courses are offered free of charge, while others are quite costly. If you decide to purchase a book, CD or participate in a commercial DAT preparation workshop, make sure the content matches the actual content of the DAT.
The ideal time to take the DAT is at the end of the spring semester, junior year, or immediately after you have completed your organic chemistry courses. If your test scores are not what you would like, you must wait 90 days to re-take the test. The DAT can only be taken up to three times, so plan to score well the first time you take the test.
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Last updated: June 12, 2013
©2012 American Dental Education Association ExploreHealthCareers is sponsored in part, by the Institute for Oral Health.