So you think you would like to be a dentist…

Can you answer these critical questions?

  • Who in particular, or what activities or experiences have influenced you to consider a career in dentistry?
  • What is it going to take for you to train?
  • What options will you have?
  • What is the best career path for you?
  • Will there be a place for you?

What you can expect:

  • A career where you to make a real difference in the world (communities, families, and individuals)
  • To be constantly challenged
  • To have job security
  • To serve others by improving lives
  • Apply the art and science of dental care

The Role of Dentists

Dentists are scientists and clinicians that devote themselves to maintaining and treating the teeth, gums, and other hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity and adjacent structures. Today’s dentists do not simply fill or pull teeth. They are sophisticated health professionals who dedicate their lives to preventing tooth decay, periodontal disease, malocclusion, and oral-facial anomalies.

Dentists are:

  • Biomedical specialists trained to recognize systemic conditions of the body that manifest themselves in the mouth.
  • Concerned about early detection of oral cancer, and treat common disorders such as tooth pain, chewing and digestion issues, dry mouth, abnormal speech
  • Trained to correct cosmetic and aesthetic concerns of patients

Choosing This Field

As with medicine, students are often attracted to a career in dentistry early in their lives. Our experience suggest that 25% of those entering dentistry made the decision before graduating high school, 60% during college, and 15% after completing college.

The sources of influence identified include: interest math and science in school, one’s own personal or family dental care experience, a shadowing experience with a dentist, or encouragement from  family and dental health professionals.

Your Path to Dental Medicine

  • You might take a straight forward path (college, dental school, dental residency, and then a life of practice.
  • You might decide on a clinical practice spending most of your time in direct patient care in specialties such as general dentistry, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, or dental public health.
  • You might decide that your talents best suit a career as a research scientist.

There are so many possibilities. Stay open to your options along the way.

The Future

Students can enter dental careers in general dentistry practice, numerous specialty practices, teaching, research, and public and international health. A recent survey showed that there was on average one dentist for every 1,673 people in the United States.

Workforce projections indicate that the need for new dentists will be high because of population growth, upcoming retirement of a large group of dentists educated in the 1960s and 70s, and changes in the scope of practice. As with medical care in general, the distribution of practicing professionals shows that rural and underserved communities face shortages of trained professionals committed to serve these communities.

Opportunities abound for women and individuals from under-represented groups in American dentistry; as members, these groups remain under-represented in the professional ranks.