What Education Is Needed to Become a Dentist?

Studying to be a dentist is becoming more of a common career path. And for good reason. Dentists are largely responsible for an individual’s oral health. To become one, you have to complete your undergraduate degree as well as an extra four years of dentistry training.

As a dentist, you can work in general dentistry but also choose a specific concentration. Concentrations in dentistry include orthodontics, maxillofacial surgery, and endodontics.

Additionally, most dentists are responsible for maintaining a management position, especially if they’re working in a practice on their own. They have to supervise the work of dental hygienists and office assistants. It’s such a highly skilled position.

There are four main steps to becoming a dentist. We’ll tackle them one-by-one.

Undergraduate Degree

Most dentistry departments require you to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree program before enrollment. You’re more than welcome to select a degree that’s completely unrelated to dentistry. However, this may not work out for you in the long run. Choosing a pre-dentistry or a STEM major can help you better fulfill prerequisite requirements for dentistry school. You should take special care of your GPA and academic standing. GPA can significantly factor into your chance of acceptance at a dental school.

Dental Acceptance Test

Another major aspect of your dentistry school application, the Dental Acceptance Test can definitely affect your chances at acceptance. This 280 question exam is taken over five hours with most of its subject matter targeting natural science. This exam is scored from 1-30, and the typical score comes in at 19. To get into more competitive dental schools, you should aim for a 25 or above.

The American Dental Association noted that in 2014-2015 has been its highest level of enrollment since the 1980s. Top universities will receive thousands of applicants and only allow a couple hundred at most to enroll.

Doctoral Degree

In the United States, there are two different paths you can take towards gaining proper certification and becoming a practicing dentist. You can either study to become a Doctor of Dental Surgery or a Doctor of Dental Medicine. These two courses contain much of the same coursework. When achieving this level of dentistry education, dental students should focus on choosing a school that offer’s accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation. This way you won’t waste any time and can get licensed after you graduate.

Additionally, there are nine areas of focus that dentistry students can concentrate on during their studies. Students can study:

  • Prosthodontics
  • Orthodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Endodontics
  • Dental Public Health
  • Pediatric Dentistry

Licensure Requirements

Even though the licensure requirements may differ state-to-state, they largely are composed of the same process. Apart from completing their dentistry studies, students are required to pass two exams. The National Board Dental Examinations contain both a written and clinical section. Most of the topics are related to dental anatomy, patient management, and biomedical science.

Even though it may seem like a long road, it is well worth the hard work. Begin with strong study habits and you should be well on your way to becoming a licensed practicing dentist.