Becoming a Full-Fledged Dentist: Everything Students Need to Know


A career in the dentistry industry is a good choice. According to the 2021 United States NWR rankings of the best jobs in the country, dentistry placed in the top ten of career options and had three specialties, orthodontist, a prosthodontist, and the maxillofacial and oral surgeon ranked in the top thirty-five.

In addition to the satisfaction of helping the general public to improve their oral health, the average salary for these professions is pretty high, at least $150,000 a year. In this article, we will discuss how to become a dental professional and provide future dentists with recommendations on how to get started, so they can maximize their chances of chasing their dream career in this industry.

How to become a dental professional

Becoming a reputable dentist needs a significant investment in education. Most dental schools require at least a bachelor’s degree to apply, with a couple of schools offering an accelerated admission after two or three years of undergrad studies. From all the accredited schools in the United States, every one of these schools offers four-year dental programs with the exception of a couple of schools, which provide a three-year program.

Like most med-school admissions, these colleges do not need a specific major. But people will need to complete particular requirements like certain courses (usually in the sciences department), DAT or Dental Admission Test, letters of recommendations, personal statements, as well as relevant extracurricular. A quick lesson on dental history explains the difference between these types of schools.

The first school in the United States that offered these kinds of courses was the Baltimore College of Medicine which started granting the Doctors of Dental Surgery course in 1840. Harvard, founded their dentistry department shortly after that. Since all of their courses are in Latin, they chose to grant a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry degree. Since then, colleges have decided which classes to grant, with at least two-thirds offer the DDS degree.

How to get into these colleges? Check out for more info.

How hard is it to become a dental professional?

Becoming one is pretty challenging in a couple of ways, like the years of schooling needed, the cost of education, setting up dental practices, as well as the competitive school application process. Since college acceptance rates are usually around 55% in the United States – in other words, 45% of applicants do not end up enrolling anywhere – to gain admission to these schools; people will need to demonstrate excellent academic performance.

Recently, the average college DAT and GPA score for successful applicants have stayed steady at approximately 20 and 3.5, respectively, with prestigious colleges boasting higher numbers.

Want to become a dentist? How long does it take?

Usually, it takes eight years to become one: four years to earn the bachelor’s degree and another four years to earn the doctor’s degree or post-grad course. If a person is interested in getting dental specializations, they will also need to complete a residency.

There is another path they can take for high school students who are committed to getting into this industry that may shorten the time needed. DDS or BS programs or direct programs pair with undergrad institutions allow students to gain acceptance to both programs after graduating from high school. These programs usually take seven years to complete, although few people can complete these programs in five to six years.

Residence training

This industry is a pretty diverse field of medicine. Career opportunities include academics, public health, and private practice. Dentists could work in different settings over the course of their careers. For instance, working in a public health setting, doing private practice, and finishing their academic career. In addition to becoming a family or general dentist, this industry also offers a couple of specialties. Listed below are some specialties in this field that the ADA recognizes:

  • Dentofacial orthopedics and orthodontics
  • Maxillofacial and oral pathology
  • Maxillofacial and oral radiology
  • Maxillofacial and oral surgery
  • Pediatric dentistry
  • Orofacial pain
  • Prosthodontics
  • Anesthesiology
  • Oral medicine
  • Public health
  • Periodontics
  • Endodontics

To start a specialty, people will need to do residencies after finishing the post-grad course. A lot of these residencies last for at least two years, with maxillofacial and oral surgery requiring at least four years. Some schools offer stipends and pay their students during their training course, while some require students to pay tuition fees – and it can be pretty expensive.

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