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How to Become a Dentist

Gaurav Shimpi May 12, 2019
If you have decided to enter the prolific world of dentistry, then you are on the right page. This write-up will answer all your queries on the process to become a dentist.
Dentistry is one of the ten most sought after careers in the United States, and is also one of the high paying professions. Dentistry as a profession is said to grow by about 19 percent by 2026, which is much faster than the average of all occupations.
So if you are deciding on becoming a dentist, you are on the right path. For a start, students who are keen on becoming dentists should have good grades in biology, chemistry, and health. College students planning to pursue dentistry are required to give Dental Admissions Test (DAT) which help them to get admission in a good reputed college.

Educational Qualifications

Before you get recognized as a dentist, you must have a four-year doctors degree in dentistry, from an accredited college. A dentist is required to do a 2 to 4 years of internship or residency. He should also be licensed to practice, which can be acquired from the board of dental examiners of the state in which he plans to work.
A dentist can specialize in orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, and endodontics. Orthodontics deals with the prevention or correction of teeth irregularities. Periodontics deals with diseases of the gums and other structures around the teeth. Prosthodontics deals with making teeth or dentures. Endodontics deal with the diseases of the dental pulp.
You can choose your specialty according to your interests or according to what you are good at. The salary of a dentist can also vary according to the specialization, for example orthodontists earn approximately $171,000 per annum on an average, whereas prosthodontists earn about $159,000 per annum.

Job Description and Duties

A dentist should not only be familiar, but should also be able to master the standard concepts, procedures, and practices of dentistry. The work is often surgical, but they can also prescribe medicines to cure and treat diseases. The primary job of a dentist is to examine, diagnose, and treat diseases and injuries of teeth and gums.
They also remove tooth decay, fill cavities, place protective plastic sealants on teeth, and straighten or replace teeth. In case of any malformations of teeth, dentist has to recommend braces or surgery to correct it.
They provide instructions on brushing, flossing, and the use of fluorides, thus educating the patients for maintaining good dental health. They perform routine periodic checkups for any decay, dental plaque, or tartar. Dentists also administer anesthetics when required and also fit bridges and take impressions for crowns and dentures.

Abilities Required

They should be apt in diagnostic and manual skills. Dentists require good visual memory and judgement, excellent skills and must be able to make quick, coordinated movements of both hands to grasp, manipulate or assemble objects with scientific ability. Good business sense, self-discipline and communication skills help self-employed dentists go a long way.

Work Environment

Dentists are known to work long and hard, some of them work up to 36 hours or more a week. Some senior dentists employed by hospitals and clinics may be on call. Government agencies usually have regular work timings, while those who are just starting out, have to work for more hours.
A dentist can continue to work part-time even after retirement. A large number of dentists retire every year, which provides better opportunity for new graduates from dental schools. Dentists can also work as administrators or researchers in dental schools or as full-time or part-time teachers.

Tips for Graduates

Those looking for jobs should apply directly to dental clinics, hospitals, and military services. Searching for contacts and networking with members of dental associations can also help in getting jobs. Military services also provide a good opportunity to travel and practice dentistry.
Before setting up a clinic, they should take into account the potential to gain business in a certain locality. They can also check with dental societies, professional practice brokers, and other local organizations to help identify the right opportunity.

Dentist Salary

In May 2017, the average salary of a dentist was $158,120 per annum. The salary varies according to experience, location, and specialty. It is observed that self-employed dentists in private practice earn more than salaried dentists. However, employed dentists get benefits like health insurance, malpractice insurance, life insurance, retirement plans etc.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10 percent earners in this profession brought home more than USD 208,000 per year. For all the wannabe dentists out there, all we want to say is that, if you are sure about your goal and if you are prepared for hard work, success will not be far behind. Good luck!