The Scoop on Dentistry

If you like teeth and you're willing to finish Dental School then being an Dentist might be for you.

Basically, the Dental profession consists of a bunch of Dentists who own their own practices, and work until retirement as a Dentist. However, after you've learned everything you need to know you can start your own practice and set your own hours.

What in the World Does a Dentist Do?

Most of us have been to a Dentist's office, but we may not realize that the Dentist does more than poke around in our mouth with that prong-like tool, shine bright lights in our eyes, and lean over us with a small mirror in your mouths.

As Dentist you are responsible for diagnosing diseases of the mouth and tongue, cleaning teeth, filling cavities, and giving x-rays (all the usual stuff.) You will need to be able to recruit clients in order to build your client base, so if you're not the "recruiting type" then you might want to avoid this profession. You will need to hire a staff of Hygienists to work with you and if you don't want to handle all the ins and outs of your business yourself then you'll have to hire a clerical staff to take appointments, deal with insurance, and take payments. The job is grueling and requires steady hands, and that usually means saving them for the patients and not using them on paperwork and the phones.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

A Dentist is actually a "Doctor of Medical Dentistry" (I know, it sounds important), but that means that you need a Bachelor's degree and you'll have to go to Dental School after that. The schooling process typically takes about 8 years, so it is not for those who don't, shall we say, "Enjoy" being in school. Also, most of these Dental Schools want you to do a couple of years of "pre dental" study (which usually means getting a degree in Biology or Chemistry) when you get your Bachelor's degree, so you want to make the choice to be a Dentist early if you can.

The "rub" is that there are only 56 accredited Dental Schools in the U.S. and you have to take the DAT (Dental Admissions Test) before you can be accepted to a Dental School, but once you're there they teach you EVERYTHING (that's why it takes 4 years.)

After you graduate, you'll have to get a license to practice Dentistry from the State Dental Board. Usually this means you have to pass a written test and a "skills" exam (I mean, working on a mouth for a grade!) before you can get your license. After you pass you will receive your license (which requires continuing education to renew) and then you can start your own practice or work for with established Dentist for a couple of years before you open your own practice. After you have saved enough money or you are ready to start your practice you'll be able to set your own hours, hire a staff and work until your retire and sell your practice to another young Dentist.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Once you get your license and you've either worked for an established Dentist or you've got enough money to start your own practice you can go into business for yourself (by either starting a practice or buying one from a retiring Dentist.) Sometimes you might be able to work as part of a larger Dental Practice so you don't have to find your own patients and buy all your own equipment and secure an office space, but large practices are pretty rare.

If you want to advance in your career you can build your client base (you really do have to be the "recruiting type" to own your own business as a Dentist) and/or teach and conduct research. Sometimes research and teaching require a couple more years of advanced schooling to become a Professor of Dentistry or Researcher. A College of Dentistry might be a place to go to work after you've had a lot of experience working in the field or it could be a nice place to work in your retirement. Either way, you don't JUST have pull teeth your whole career.

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Dentists, General Overview

Dentists, General Salary:$142,870
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:8 years
# Employed in US:85,910
% Who work Part Time:17%
Physical Difficulty:+ + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ +

The Pros of being a Dentist

  • The opportunity to own your own business and set your own hours.
  • The chance to give other people jobs working in your office.
  • The opportunity to work in teaching or research

The Cons of being a Dentist

  • It takes 8 years of collegiate schooling to get a license and, maybe, advanced education
  • Your license requires a board exam and continuing education
  • It will very expensive to start your own practice or to buy one from a retiring Dentist