Becoming a Dentist is a highly sought-after Career

One of our most frequently asked questions from patients who visit us is, “How does someone become a Dentist?” In this article, we are going to take you step-by-step on the process of becoming a Dentist. Let’s get started!

 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dentist?

The process of becoming a Dentist is much more competitive than in years past and requires a specific set of qualifications during high school and college to be eligible for entry into Dental school. Overall, after completion of high school, students need a 4-year college bachelor’s degree plus a 4-year graduate Dental School degree, totaling 8 years. 

However, this does not include any additional schooling for specialty dentists such as Endodontists, Orthodontists, Periodontists, Pediatrics, Prosthodontists, or Oral Surgeons. These students require either another degree, a residency, or both which can range from 2 – 6 years depending on the specialization they have chosen.

Many dental school graduates also choose to continue their education through AEGD (Advanced Education in General Dentistry) or GPR (General Practice Residency) programs. These typically last one year and are designed for postdoctoral clinical training as an advanced supplement to the predoctoral dental curriculum. Both program types award a postgraduate certificate upon graduation. 

For specifics on each specialty or additional education, please visit the American Dental Association’s Education center here.

Overall, becoming a Dentist will take anywhere from 8 to 14 years depending on the type of dentist a student wishes to become. 

What Do I Need to Major in to Become a Dentist?

Students can major in a variety of fields and be accepted into dental school. However, most dental school admissions require taking prerequisite courses related to the field of biology, physiology, and chemistry. This ensures the student has an accurate baseline of information to prepare them for dental school courses. You can find specific course requirements for each dental school on their website to ensure you are on the right track. 

For example, at ECU School of Dental Medicine in Greenville, NC they require a minimum of one year (8 semester hours) of biology, organic chemistry, general chemistry, & physics with 6 semester hours of English and mathematics courses from a 4-year accredited US college or university. 

In most cases, pre-dental students major in biology or chemistry. However, there have also been successful dental students who have majored in Business (helpful for starting your own practice after dental school), Medical Textiles (great if you plan on developing dental products), or Engineering (physics and mathematics play an important role in dentistry).

 

What Other Requirements Do I Need to Become a Dentist? 

Score High on Your Dental Admissions Test

Other than your course prerequisites and a high GPA, you will need to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). This is similar to the MCAT for Medical School entry. The test has four sections: Perceptual Ability, Quantitative Reasoning, Survey of the Natural Sciences, and Reading Comprehension. 

DAT scores range from 1-30, with 17 being the average. To be considered a competitive applicant for dental school, an Academic Average (AA) of 19-20 is desirable. This number can fluctuate from school to school but statistics on average acceptance scores can be found on each dental school’s website.

Obtain Letters of Evaluation 

Another requirement for dental school entry will be letters of recommendation or evaluation. At most 4-year colleges, a pre-health or pre-dental committee can help you with a committee letter. Otherwise, you will need to submit 4 letters: 2 from science professors, 1 from an academic advisor, and 1 from a dentist. Read more about letters of evaluation on the ADA website here

Acquire Dental Volunteer or Shadowing Hours

Most dental schools require applicants to have some form of dental shadowing. This shows that the applicant understands the career they will potentially be joining. It is also extremely helpful to shadow the profession early on to truly grasp if this is the right career for you. Most dental schools require at least 100 hours of dental shadowing. 

Typically you can contact a dental office directly to request to shadow a dentist. You can also join your pre-dental or pre-health club and volunteer at local dental clinics. For instance, in North Carolina, there is a Volunteer Dental Clinic called NC Missions of Mercy (MOM) that holds events throughout the state. 

If you would like to shadow one of our dentists at Lane & Associates, please email us at [email protected] and our clinical team will be in touch!

A great resource for applying to dental school is the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools. Click the image below to learn more!

ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools 2021 2022

 

How Long is Dental School?

Dental school is a 4-year doctorate program. There are also options to continue your education if you choose to specialize in a field. These specialties can be Orthodontics, Oral Surgery, Endodontics, Pedodontics, or Periodontics. Please read the section, ‘How Long Does it Take to Become a Dentist?’ above to learn more!

 

How Much Do Dentists Make?

The salary for general dentists varies significantly. This can be based on the experience of the dentist, the type of dentist, and the needs of their patients. The typical salary of a General Dentist can range anywhere from $128,000 – $221,000 per year with an average of $170,000 in 2021. 

For specialists such as Orthodontists, their salary can range from $259,000 to $372,000 with an average of $292,000 per year. This salary can also be much higher depending on the number of cases and types of malocclusions they are treating. 

What is the Highest-Paid Type of Dentist?

Typically the highest-paid type of dentist is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMFS). This is the dentist whose job is the most invasive of all dentists. Typically Oral surgeons use sedation options to remove wisdom teeth, place dental implants, perform bone grafts, and much more. They go through rigorous training and education well past many of their colleagues due to these advanced medical procedures. Therefore, the typical salary for an Oral Surgeon can range anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000 per year (or more). Usually, the average salary for an Oral Surgeon is around $310,000 per year. 

 

Learn More About Our Dentists

Ready to learn more? Visit our dentists’ page and scroll through their biographies to learn what it takes to become a dentist! Looking to schedule with one of our dentists? Request an appointment online with our dentists today!