What Education is Needed to Become a Dentist?

By Site Admin | Dental Clinic

Apr 12

A 4-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is required before applying to dental school. Each dental school has its own list of requirements for enrollment. An undergraduate curriculum usually includes general education and major-related coursework.

A field in the sciences is the most common area of study for students who wish to pursue dentistry. There are some schools that offer specialized topics to prepare students for dental school. Common subjects focused during their undergraduate career include organic chemistry, physics, molecular biology, and genetics.

Doctoral Degree

Students must take their dental admission test (DAT) for entrance into dental school. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that students take the DAT at least a year in advance before they apply to dental school. Students typically take the DAT during their junior year.

The DAT is comprised of 280 questions and students are given five hours to complete the test. There is a strong emphasis on questions related to the natural sciences. The maximum possible score for the test is 30 points.

A thorough understanding of dental prerequisites can save students some time on studying for the DAT. There are available online services that can help students prepare for the DAT. Students can retake the test up to three times and must wait at least 90 days between each retake.

Dental School

Requirements of most dental schools include eight hours of physical science, biology, and organic chemistry. Most students take four years to complete dental school and earn their Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. The completion time is outlined by the ADA.

The first two years of dental school are dedicated to courses and laboratory projects. Students must also complete clinical training. Core classes include oral medicine, anatomy, and dentistry. A stronger emphasis is given to practical experience in the remaining two years.

Students must apply their knowledge to practice patient care. A health profession usually supervises the students in a clinical environment. Students also learn how to develop their management skills. This is to build up their ability to communicate with patients and manage their own business.

After students graduate from dental school and earn their doctoral degree, they must then pass a series of examinations. This is a necessary step to become a licensed dentist. The National Board Dental Examination contains written and clinical sections. Students must pass both.

Possible topics that are covered on the exam include dental anatomy, biomedical sciences, and dental related subjects. Some subjects may be weighted more than others. The state’s board of dentistry reviews the exam results to assess the qualifications of the student.

Specializations Within Dentistry

After receiving their dental license, students have the option to pursue a specialization. Common areas of specialization include orthodontics, endodontics, or general practitioners. There is usually more training involved. Additional training may be four years or more.

Dentists do not need to take on a specialization. The National Board Dental Examination is the final step to becoming a dentist. Additional training and volunteer work can help develop key skills as a dentist.

Working as a Dentist

Most dentists work in an office. Other common work environments include hospitals and clinics. Some dentists are required to work overseas. Companies may require a dentist to learn new skills during their careers depending on the needs of the clients.

Further Career Options

It is common for a dentist to change career paths and work in another healthcare profession. There are many transferable skills that a dentist can apply to other professions. Some of these professions include surgeons and chiropractors.


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