Becoming A Dentist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the dental profession is set to grow at an above average rate over the next decade. Becoming a dentist takes a lot of hard work and years of education, but jobs are plentiful. Good dental care is always in demand.

Before the Dental Program

In order to get into an accredited dental school, you first need to get your Bachelor's Degree.  Most people who go on to dental school get their degree in a science, such as Chemistry or Biology.  It is important to keep your grade point average up, also.  Most dental programs will only accept people who have a grade point average over 3.5. 

In addition to getting your bachelor's degree and keeping your grades up, you are required to pass a test called the Dental Admission Test.  This is a standardized test that tests candidates on their knowledge of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning.  In order to gain admission to most dental programs, you should score at least an 18 on the DAT and have an above average grade point average, though many programs prefer your DAT score to be even higher than that. 

Dental Program

Most general dental programs are four years.  The first two years are spent in the classroom and the laboratory, learning and practicing skills.  The second two years are spent with a licensed dentist, observing and performing procedures on actual patients in an externship.  The ultimate goal of attending dental school is to become a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).  These two titles mean essentially the same thing. 


Upon completion of an accredited dental program, the dentist candidate must become licensed.  Each state has different regulations on licensure, though passing a written and a clinical test is standard regardless of the location.  The National Board Dental Examinations are typically used as the comprehensive written test.  The clinical exam is administered by the licensing board of the state.  Once a candidate passes the exams, they are licensed as a dentist!  In order to keep the license, dentists have to continue their education over the years. 

Getting a Job

Many dentists start their own practice, or go into business with a colleague.  Some choose to continue their education and go into a specialty, such as an oral surgery or orthodontics.  In order to become a specialist, two to four years additional training is required, along with a residency in the practice they are going into to.