Being a dentist can be a highly challenging yet rewarding profession. This rapidly changing field offers prestige, leadership, flexibility, and financial security but requires hard work and determination to earn them. In this article, we will break down some of the main considerations when learning how to become a dentist.
How do I know if I want to be a dentist?
You must become familiar with the profession and share in in the dentistry experience to be sure. Volunteer at a local practice or interview a dentist to learn what motivated them to choose dentistry and learn about their work life. Also, examine yourself. Do your traits and interests match those that achieve personal satisfaction and career success as a dentist?
What kinds of traits or interests do dentists typically have?
Specific traits that are commonly found in dentists include manual dexterity, diligence, excellent communications, and interpersonal skills, adaptable to frequent change, a craving to be challenged, an appreciation for diversity, patience, and creativity both scientifically and artistically. Dentists also tend to have a passion for the sciences, a fascination and aptitude for new technology, and enjoy helping people.
What do I do to once I decide I want to become a dentist?
High level guidelines for students to consider are listed here; however, the American Dental Association (ADA) guides aspiring students through the dental school admissions process at a more detailed level.
High school students should take algebra, biology, and chemistry classes; talk to a guidance counselor to find and apply to colleges that have a two-year pre-dental program with a heavy emphasis on the sciences; and maintain a high grade point average.
College students should plan coursework to include the prerequisite science courses necessary to get into dental school including biology and chemistry classes; participate in dentistry internship or volunteer programs; research four-year dental schools accredited by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation; be familiar with admission requirements; and prepare for and take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT).
What about dental school?
Acceptance into dental school will be based upon a combination of overall grade point average, performance in science classes, DAT scores, interviews, and recommendations.
Once accepted into the four-year program, the first two years will be primarily laboratory and classroom studies while the final years are mostly clinical working side-by-side with dentists. The work done in dental school prepares students for the written and practical state exams necessary to obtain a license to practice. To obtain a dental specialty, an additional 2-4 years of schooling would be required.
What will my life be like as a dentist?
Once licensed, dentists can open their own private practice, join an existing practice, teach, do research, work in a hospital emergency room, or serve in public health or administration. Dentists working in a practice typically work five days a week for 7-10 hours/day (not including emergencies) and live comfortably with a median income of $142,000. Dentists also typically enjoy flexibility to maintain a balanced work/personal life, especially when they own their own practice.
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