How to become a dentist

Deciding on a Career in Dentistry

When deciding on a career in dentistry, there are a number of factors that one should carefully consider. Those thinking about plunging into the pool of future dentists should think about whether they are a good match for the occupation. There are certain physical demands that are important to meet. Personality should be considered as well. Then there is the amount of training and education needed to become a dentist. On top of formal training, there are certificate and licensing requirements. Will the salary be attractive enough to offset the cost of education? What does the job market look like?

 

Is Dentistry the Right Fit?

Working as a dentist requires dexterity. Dentists work for long periods of time leaning over their patients, working with tools inside a small space. They need to be agile and dexterous with their hands, and have a lot of stamina. Their days are spent preforming procedures that require their full attention, so an ability to focus is important. Someone that grew up putting together models would probably be a good fit.

Not only do dentists work in situations that demand physical fitness, they must work wearing protective safety goggles, face masks, gloves and gowns. Dentists work around live bacteria and other microorganisms that require them to be diligent in their hygiene. Not only must they take care not to transmit organisms from patient to patient, they must also protect themselves from possible infection as well.

Additionally, dentists must deal with a wide variety of people from all different walks of life. Dentists must be kind, attentive and have the ability to treat everyone equally. Not only that, some patients have deep seated phobias about dentistry, so dentists must be patient.

Dentists need to be versatile. Often dentists run their own practice and may need to be both office manager and dentist when first settling their practice. This means that additional education may be needed to understand the business side of the practice.

Finally, dentists must be interpreters. The language of patients is often muddled behind instruments and cotton balls.

Educational Requirements

Some dentists start out as dental assistants or hygienists. As reported in US News, training to become a dentist involves advanced placement courses in biology, chemistry, physics and math. Secondary education includes a pre-med curriculum to prepare for the DAT (Dental Admissions Test) before achieving junior status. Additionally, candidates need stellar GPAs with undergraduate degrees in chemistry or biology, along with glowing letters of recommendation in order to be accepted into dental school, which will last one to two years.

Shadowing is a great way to see if the career is a good fit, and to get some experience. Shadowing a dentist can also culminate in one of those glowing letters of recommendation.

After dental school, one must also apply for a license to practice dentistry. These are state specific licenses.

Salary, Working Days, Outlook

The American Dental Association provides a spreadsheet of dentists’ salaries for 2013, available to download as an excel spreadsheet. Based on the information provided, the average salary of the 1538 respondents was $180,950. For those going on to practice a specialty, the average salary was $283,900. Clearly the career offers financial stability with a salary large enough to cover repayment of student loans.

Dentists typically work 30 hours each week providing patient care and an additional 3 hours working on paper work like insurance filings and other documentation needed to keep the practice going.

According to explorehealthcareers.org, the job outlook for dentists is excellent. This means that there are plenty of jobs available for graduates, and that those studying to become dentists should be able to become employed with ease.

For those deciding that a career in dentistry may be for them, the American Dental Educational Association offers a site that helps guide people through the process of becoming a dentist. The site, GoDental, offers potential dentists a number of resources. There is a section introducing dentistry, help with application preparation and help navigating the process. The site also offers prospective dentists information about the cost of attendance and financial aid application assistance. Information about specialties and private practice can also be found here, along with a dentistry blog and an events section. This site is considered the site for anyone looking for a career in dentistry.

Of the 237 dentists responding to a poll on payscale.com, each and every respondent reported being extremely satisfied with their career choice, ranking job satisfaction with 5 out of 5. Of these respondents years on the job ranged from less than one year to over 20 years.