Getting Started Healthcare

Is Dentistry the Field for You?


The career experts at CareerIgniter have a round-up of everything you need to know!

Firstly, what is it? Dentistry is a medical subspecialty that encompasses oral health. Oral health consists of the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of decay and diseases of the oral cavity, and adjacent tissues and structures of the jaw and face.

There are nine specialties within dentistry (median salaries in parentheses):

  • General Dentistry ($149,310)
  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery ($187,200)
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics ($187,200)
  • Pediatric Dentistry (Pedodontics)
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics ($169, 130)

Dentists need to have an interest in oral health, excellent patient socialization skills, and a tolerance for the up-close-and-personal nature of exams and performing dental work. Other skills include:

  • Good manual dexterity
  • Physical stamina
  • Knowledgeable in field
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Problem solving abilities
  • Patience
  • Reassuring
  • Disciplined in using clinical approach
  • Great attention to detail
  • Confidence

Dentists work in multiple settings, but most join group practices or work with public health organizations. According to CareerIgniter, 92% of dentists work in private practice. It’s a robust, growing field because the need for dental health and preventative care will only grow with the aging Baby Boomer populations.

How to become a dentist

The process takes from 7-8 years; expenses can range from $15K – $60K a year depending on the institution you select for the undergraduate and medical degrees.

1. Complete a bachelor’s degree program
2. Pass the Dental Admission Test (DAT)
3. Earn a dental degree (Doctor of Dental Surgery, DDS, or Doctor of Dental Medicine, DDM) from an accredited organization. Studies during this time include laboratory and classroom work in health and dental science. Courses will most likely include oral pathology, periodontics, dental anesthesia, orthodontics, radiology, and pharmacology. The last two years of a program typically focus on clinical work, diagnosing and treating patients under the supervision of a dental instructor.
4. Obtain a license to practice (by passing National Board Dental Exams)
5. Practice or pursue a specialty

So if you like teeth, other human beings, and are passionate about preventative medical care—dentistry just might be the ideal career for you!

Want More Content Like This?

Get TheJobNetwork's Latest Career Advice &
Job Seeking Tips straight to your inbox

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.

[Free eBook Download]
[Free eBook Download]