Dentists provide a range of services that support oral hygiene and health. In addition to performing regular checkups, they look for signs of oral cancer, gum disease, and other concerns that can affect a person's long-term health. Some dentists choose to specialize in niche areas of the field. Specialists include:
Oral Pathologists who diagnose a range of health concerns for all parts of the mouth
Periodontists who diagnose and treat mouth and face ailments
Orthodontists who correct teeth and jaw alignment
Endodontists who perform root canals and similar procedures
Prosthodontists who use prosthetic devices such as crowns and dentures
People who excel at dentistry often have an interest in preventative medicine. They may establish their own practices or work with groups of other dental professionals.
Dentist Job Education Requirements
Students interested in becoming dentists must first pass the Dental Admission Test. They can then earn Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degrees. These degrees are typically earned after completing a bachelor's of science or bachelor's of arts degree.
The DDS degree requires four years of study. The first two years of the program focus on classroom and lab instruction. Students learn information similar to what medical students study, including anatomy. They may also take courses in dental treatment and diagnosing oral diseases. The second half of the program lets students develop skills through rotation externships. This usually involves working under close supervision at a clinic.
Students who wish to specialize in areas such as pediatric dentistry or maxillofacial surgery need to complete postgraduate programs that can last anywhere between two and six years.
Those who do not want to spend this much time in school may wish to become dental nurses or dental hygienists who assist during cleanings, surgeries, and other procedures.
Dentist Job Market
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 146,800 dentists working in the United States in 2012. The number of positions is expected to grow by 16 percent (23,300 jobs) by 2022. This growth is faster than average.
Dentist Job Salary Information
In 2012, the median salary for dentists was $149,310 per year. Even dentists in the lower 10 percent of earners made over $72,000 in 2013. Dentists who work in certain states tend to make more money than those working in others. The states with the highest mean salaries for dentists include: