If you are interested in diagnosing, preventing, and treating dental problems, you could think about becoming a dentist.
Depending on what kind of dentist you want to be, your education needs will be different, but you can usually expect to spend eight years in school and training.
Knowing how to become a dentist and what each type of dentistry is focused on can help you decide if it’s a good fit for your interests and career goals.
In this article, we will be answering the question: how long is dental school, go over the education requirements and main jobs of a dentist, and list the different types of dental specialists.
Who Is a Dentist?
A dentist is a doctor who focuses on the health of the mouth. They keep people from getting dental diseases and use diagnostic tools to figure out what’s wrong with teeth.
Dentists also use tools to treat things like broken teeth, teeth that aren’t in the right place, gum disease, and tooth roots that are showing.
Types of Dentists
There are different kinds of dental specialists, just like there are different kinds of medical specialists.
If a student wants to become a dentist, they can choose from a number of fields to study. Here are some examples of specialties and what they mean:
1. Pediatric Dentist
Pediatric dentists are the only ones who care for and treat the teeth of babies, kids, and teens.
They help kids learn how to take care of their teeth so they don’t get cavities or diseases.
Pediatric dentists often get extra training in child psychology to help their patients, some of whom may have special needs, have a good and comfortable experience.
2. Oral Surgeon
An oral surgeon, who may also be called an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, does only dental surgery.
Some of these procedures are the removal of tumors and broken jaw bones, the removal of teeth, and the realignment of the jaw.
Also, if a dentist wants to become an oral surgeon, they can expect to spend four to six years training in a hospital-based surgical environment after dental school.
Endodontists are doctors who focus on root canal treatment, which is a way to treat infected tissues inside the teeth.
They use 3D imaging machines and digital x-rays to find cavities near the nerve of a tooth.
Endodontists can sometimes do surgery, like an apicoectomy, when an infection stays after a root canal treatment.
Orthodontists work with both kids and adults to fix problems with teeth and jaws.
Common dental problems include gaps between teeth, extra teeth, overbites, underbites, crowded teeth, a misaligned jaw, and temporomandibular disorders (TMDs).
They are dentists who are trained to put braces and retainers on their patients. Orthodontists can expect to be in a residency program for two to three years.
Prosthodontists are experts in fixing up teeth. They fix problems like tooth loss and jaw pain, and they take care of how your teeth and gums work and look.
They sometimes work with oral surgeons to fix a patient’s teeth after surgery. Sleep apnea, cleft palates, and snoring are also things that prosthodontists can help with.
To become a prosthodontist, you need to spend two to three years in a medical residency that focuses on prosthodontics after you finish dental school.
Periodontists are doctors who focus on gum diseases, oral inflammation, and problems with dental implants.
They look for, treat, and try to stop these problems. When gum disease is mild, periodontists usually use root planing or scaling to clean the surfaces of the teeth under the gum line.
If the gum disease is bad, they may use surgery, regenerative techniques, or bone or gum grafts to help the tissue grow back. To become a periodontist, a dentist needs three more years of training after dental school.
How Long Is Dental School?
Those who want to be dentists and want to know how long dental school takes can expect to get their license after six to eight years.
Students usually get a bachelor’s degree first, and then they apply to dental school.
Some schools offer the chance to get a bachelor’s degree and a doctoral degree at the same time.
This may cut down on the time it takes to finish school. Some of the things that can change how long it takes to become a dentist are:
1. Pursuing a Specialization
Specializations give you the chance to focus on a specific area of dentistry.
A prosthodontist, an oral surgeon, a pediatric dentist, an endodontist, and an orthodontist are all types of specialists.
Most of the time, these fields require more education and training.
2. Choosing an Undergraduate Major
Depending on what you study for your undergraduate degree, it may take you longer or shorter to become a dentist.
If you study chemistry or biology, you may be able to shorten the time it takes to become a dentist.
This is because these fields are related, so you may be able to take fewer courses in dental school.
Getting two majors can also be a good idea. Even though this could make you spend more time in college or university, it can help you get ready for dental school even more.
3. Types of Programs
To become a licensed dentist, it usually takes three to four years to finish an undergraduate program and earn a bachelor’s degree, plus another four years to go to dental school.
Some schools may have dentistry programs that combine the first year of college with training in dentistry. With this combination, you might be able to finish school in six years.
4. Results of admission and application
It can be hard to become a dentist, and this is most clear in the process of getting into dental school.
It helps to have an above-average or high GPA and to study a lot for your dental admissions test since your score on it can have a big impact on your chances of getting in.
If you can get good letters of recommendation from professors or employers, your chances of getting in may go up even more.
Educational Requirements to Become a Dentist
Before we let you have the answer to the question: how long is dental school? It is good you know the requirements. To become a dentist, you need a bachelor’s degree and a degree from a dental program.
Most students get a bachelor’s degree before going to dental school, but you can also apply to dental school in your last year of college or university.
After you finish your dental program, you can take a certification exam to get the license you need to work as a dentist.
Here’s a guide to help you figure out what you need to learn to become a dentist:
1. Bachelor’s Degree
Most dental schools want applicants to have a bachelor’s degree before they can submit an application.
Some schools may accept your application even if you are in your last year of college, but it depends on your GPA and references.
After you finish your bachelor’s degree, you can take a test to get into a dental program and start applying.
2. Doctoral Degree
Dental schools have programs that teach students about dentistry and give them the hands-on experience they need to become dentists.
Students can expect to take classes in oral microbiology, dental anatomy, dental radiology, and biology.
Also, students usually do residencies or internships to learn about dentistry on the job.
You can get a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) from a dental program (DMD).
3. Specialization Training
You can choose to specialize in a certain area of dentistry when you go to dental school.
Depending on the type of specialization, this may require more training and can take an extra year to three years to finish.
For example, if you want to become an oral surgeon, you need to go through a six-year program or a four-year residency.
4. Certificate Examination
The National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) certification process is what dentist school graduates have to go through to get their license.
There are two kinds of tests in this process. The first is a written test, and the second is the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). To pass either test, you must get a score of 75% or higher.
Primary Duties of a Dentist
Dentists are doctors, so they usually work in hospitals or their own private practices.
Customers can be a big part of this job, so it helps to have good people skills, especially if you want to run your own private practice.
Every day, dentists do oral exams to find, diagnose, and treat dental problems.
Regular cleaning, root canals, surgical extractions, implants, and cosmetic dentistry are all part of these exams.
Dentists make dental plans for their patients so they can track their progress and help them deal with common and serious dental problems.
You may also do different things, like take X-rays, fix broken teeth, and put on crowns and plates.
Dentists usually work with other dental care professionals, like dental surgeons, hygienists, and orthodontists, to give their patients a full range of oral care. Now to the question: how long is dental school? Please find out in the next section.
How Many Years to Become a Dentist in the Philippines
On average, it takes 6–8 years to become a dentist. This is especially true in the Philippines.
This includes both the DMD or Doctor of Dental Medicine program and an undergraduate degree or pre-dental course that is required.
I can finish the DMD in 6 years, which includes a 2-year pre-dental education that focuses on basic health courses and a 4-year curriculum for dentistry.
Clinical training takes up the last two years of the program. Bachelor’s degree holders in fields other than medicine could also join the program, as long as they met the school’s requirements, which included passing the required Dexterity test and General Weighted Average, or GWA.
What Subjects Are Needed to Become a Dentist
Most students also need a good grade point average (GPA), experience shadowing a dentist, and good recommendation letters in addition to their DAT scores.
An applicant doesn’t need a science degree to get in, but they do need to have taken some classes in dentistry as an undergraduate.
Before you can apply to most programs, you have to have taken at least eight hours of biology, chemistry, physical science, organic chemistry, and English as an undergrad.
Most schools of dentistry take four years to finish. Schools either give out a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD).
The ADA says that the two degrees are the same, which means that the coursework and ways of practice are the same for both.
Only the name is different. Look for either degree if you want to make sure your dentist has the right training or if you want to find a program for yourself.
How to Decide If Dental School Makes Sense
Dr. Krysta Manning, the owner of Solstice Dental & Aesthetics in Louisville, Kentucky, says that training to be a dentist is “a marathon, not a sprint,” so people who want to go to dental school need to know how much time it will take.
“Dental school is a four-year commitment, and you’ll be expected to spend nearly 40 hours a week in classes, clinics, and studying for exams,” Manning wrote in an email.
“Because of the time commitment, it is hard to keep other jobs to help pay for living costs. Because of this, most students need loans not only to pay for tuition, but also to pay for their living costs.”
According to the ADEA, the class of 2018 dental school graduates who took out student loans to pay for their education had a median amount of debt of $280,410.
Even though the time and money needed to become a dentist can be scary, Low says that the job can be personally and financially rewarding.
“Even though it costs a lot of money and time, being a dental health professional has a lot of benefits,” Low wrote in an email. “Taking care of patients is very rewarding, and being a dental health professional gives you peace of mind about money.”
Is it hard to be a dentist?
It can be hard and challenging to be a dentist, and you’ll have to study for many years.
You might be convinced right now that you want to be a dentist, but is that the right path for you?
Dentistry is interesting, but you have to be really interested in teeth and oral health, in general, to do it well.
Why do dentists retire early?
Most dentists make enough money to be able to cover up financial mistakes.
This is probably the biggest reason why dentists retire later than most Americans. If they are getting a lot of money, they might not feel as rushed to get organized and make a plan.
What is the average net worth of a dentist?
In 2019, the average income for a US family was $68,703. The average pay for general dentists was $204,710, and the average pay for specialists was $343,410. About 10% of the 128.45 million American households, or about 13.5 million, have a net worth of more than $1 million.
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