How to Become a Dentist
Dentists are medical professionals that help patients when it comes to cleaning, maintaining and repairing various problems in the teeth, gums and mouth. Knowing how to become a dentist is the first step to take if you want to pursue this kind of profession. According to research, dentistry professionals are becoming more in demand because of the increasing awareness to the importance of healthy gums, teeth and mouth. Being a dentist can be both fulfilling and lucrative since dentists get to help people with their dental problems and earn a high income..
Undergraduate Degree Programs for Aspiring Dentists
Just like other medical professions, dentists are doctors, which is why they need to accomplish higher levels of education especially in medicine courses. So how long does it take to become a dentist? In addition, how many years does it take to become a dentist?
To become a certified and licensed dentist, the first step is to obtain an undergraduate degree in college, specifically taking a 4-year course related to dentistry, science or health. There are no specific dentistry courses in college but just like pre-med courses, you should plan the subjects and courses you take during college so you can comply with the necessary requirements imposed by the dentistry schools.
Some of the courses you need to take are the same as pre-med courses like physics, biology, anatomy, physiology, organic chemistry, and mathematics. It is important to complete your undergraduate degree program with good marks since there are some schools for dentistry that require certain level of grades to qualify for their dental programs.
After graduating in college, you should apply for admission in a school for dentistry to obtain the necessary degree specifically designed for dentists. In United States, students should pass the college admission test first known as the DAT or Dental Admissions Test before they can enroll for a doctorate degree program in dentistry.
Dentistry Education through a Dentistry School
Admission to a dental college or school is the next step to become a dentist after finishing your undergraduate degree. Education for dentistry or doctorate degree programs will usually take 4 to 5 years for completion. There are two main doctorate degree programs to choose from. One is the DDS or the Doctor of Dental Surgery and the DDM or the Doctor of Dental Medicine.
To choose the right doctorate degree program, determine first your preferences and your field of expertise. Once you are accepted in a school of dentistry, you will be studying various courses and perform laboratory works required on your degree program. Some of the courses you need to take are microbiology, anatomy, physiology, oral health, dental radiography, dental neuroscience, orthodontics, preventive dentistry, oral surgeries, anesthesia and general nutrition.
During the first two years of the doctorate degree program, students will be studying the basic functions and structures of the human body. Courses during these years will be focused on the oral anatomy, oral histology and oral pathology. The last two years will be focused on clinical practices, and observation and learning of dental procedures.
If you want a subspecialty, you will also be taking specific courses related to your chosen field such as orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, and endodontics. Aside from the coursework and lab works, students must also pass the examinations set by the National Board Dental Examination or the specific regulating agency in your country. After 2 years in the dental schools, you will be required to get the first part of the examination and the last part on your fourth year in the dental school. If you pass the two exams, you will automatically earn your license as a dentist right after graduating and completing your doctorate degree.
Getting a specialization in dentistry like pediatric dentistry can be a very good option if you want to improve on your craft and obtain better career opportunities. If you want a subspecialty in dentistry like pediatric dentistry, you should determine the career path on how to become a pediatric dentist. This is important since specific courses you need to take during your last years in dentistry school vary depending on your chosen subspecialty. If you want to specialize in pediatric dentistry, you will be focusing on courses related to child dental health and care as well as non-dentistry courses like child psychology, pediatric growth and child development.
Residency Requirements to Practice Dentistry
Just as the residency required for doctors and other medical professionals, licensed dentists also need to finish some residency first before they can practice their profession as a private dentist. This can be accomplished by working while supervised by a dental professional. Residency is important in order to gain actual training and application of knowledge you earned from your dentistry school. The years to complete residency will depend on your specialization. Continuous education and training is also required in order for dentists to retain their license to practice.
Many people today prefer dentistry because of the significant growth in demand and salary for professional dentists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in United States, dentists can earn an annual average income of $80,000 to $100,000. However, the education requirements and the training require hard work and sufficient resources since this type of course is not cheap. That is why learning how to become a dentist is very important to properly understand the process you need to take to become one and to be prepared financially, physically and mentally for the long journey.