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Become A Dentist

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Working As A Dentist

  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Make Decisions

  • $120,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Dentist Do

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of the teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.


Dentists typically do the following:

  • Remove decay from teeth and fill cavities
  • Repair cracked or fractured teeth and remove teeth
  • Place sealants or whitening agents on teeth
  • Administer anesthetics to keep patients from feeling pain during procedures
  • Prescribe antibiotics or other medications
  • Examine x rays of teeth, gums, the jaw, and nearby areas in order to diagnose problems
  • Make models and measurements for dental appliances, such as dentures, to fit patients
  • Teach patients about diets, flossing, the use of fluoride, and other aspects of dental care

Dentists use a variety of equipment, including x-ray machines, drills, mouth mirrors, probes, forceps, brushes, and scalpels. They also use lasers, digital scanners, and other computer technologies, such as digital dentistry.

In addition, dentists in private practice oversee a variety of administrative tasks, including bookkeeping and buying equipment and supplies. They employ and supervise dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental laboratory technicians, and receptionists.

Most dentists are general practitioners and handle a variety of dental needs. Other dentists practice in 1 of 9 specialty areas:

Dental public health specialists promote good dental health and the prevention of dental diseases in specific communities.

Endodontists perform root-canal therapy, by which they remove the nerves and blood supply from injured or infected teeth.

Oral and maxillofacial radiologists diagnose diseases in the head and neck through the use of imaging technologies.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons operate on the mouth, jaws, teeth, gums, neck, and head, performing procedures such as surgically repairing a cleft lip and palate or removing impacted teeth.

Oral pathologists diagnose conditions in the mouth, such as bumps or ulcers, and oral diseases, such as cancer.

Orthodontists straighten teeth by applying pressure to the teeth with braces or other appliances.

Pediatric dentists focus on dentistry for children and special-needs patients.

Periodontists treat the gums and bone supporting the teeth.

Prosthodontists replace missing teeth with permanent fixtures, such as crowns and bridges, or with removable fixtures, such as dentures.

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How To Become A Dentist

Dentists must be licensed in the state(s) in which they work. Licensure requirements vary by state, although candidates usually must graduate from an accredited dental school and pass written and practical exams.


All dental schools require applicants to have completed certain science courses, such as biology and chemistry, before entering dental school. Students typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter most dental programs, although no specific major is required. However, majoring in a science, such as biology, might increase one’s chances of being accepted. Requirements vary by school.

College undergraduates who plan on applying to dental school usually must take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) during their junior year. Admission to dental school can be competitive. Dental schools use these tests along with other factors, such as grade point average, interviews, and recommendations, to admit students into their programs.

Dental school programs typically include coursework in subjects such as local anesthesia, anatomy, periodontics (the study of oral disease and health), and radiology. All programs at dental schools include clinical experience in which students work directly with patients under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

Completion of a dental program results in one of three degrees: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), and Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD). In 2015, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 60 dental school programs.

High school students who want to become dentists should take courses in chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, and math.


All nine dental specialties require dentists to complete additional training before practicing that specialty. This training is usually a 2- to 4-year residency in a program related to their specialty. General dentists do not require any additional training after dental school.

Dentists who want to teach or do research full time usually spend an additional 2 to 5 years in advanced dental training. Many practicing dentists also teach part time, including supervising students in dental school clinics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Dentists must be licensed in the state(s) in which they work. All states require dentists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. Most states require a dentist to have a degree from an accredited dental school and to pass the written and practical National Board Dental Examinations.

In addition, a dentist who wants to practice in one of the nine specialties must have a license in that specialty. Licensure requires the completion of a residency after dental school and, in some cases, the completion of a special state exam.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Dentists must have excellent communication skills. They must be able to communicate effectively with patients, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and receptionists.

Detail oriented. Dentists must be detail oriented so that patients receive appropriate treatments and medications. They also must pay attention to the shape and color of teeth and to the space between them. For example, they may need to closely match a false tooth with a patient’s other teeth.

Dexterity. Dentists must be good at working with their hands. They work with tools in a limited area.

Leadership skills. Most dentists work in their own practice. This requires them to manage and lead a staff.

Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills, including the ability to keep accurate records of patient care, are critical in both medical and business settings.

Patience. Dentists may work for long periods of time with patients who need special attention. Children and patients with a fear of dental work may require a lot of patience.

Physical stamina. Dentists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for long periods.

Problem-solving skills. Dentists need strong problem-solving skills. They must evaluate patients’ symptoms and choose the appropriate treatments.

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Dentist jobs

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Dentist Typical Career Paths

Dentist Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Asian

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • Hindi

  • French

  • Arabic

  • Portuguese

  • Vietnamese

  • Korean

  • Polish

  • Italian

  • German

  • Urdu

  • Gujarati

  • Turkish

  • Russian

  • Mandarin

  • Chinese

  • Hebrew

  • Telugu

  • Romanian

  • Marathi

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Dentist Education


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Real Dentist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Dentist (Periodontist) Center for Advanced Periodontal & Implant Care, Inc. Canton, OH Feb 28, 2016 $557,229
Dentist-Endodontist Specialist Greenberg Dental Associates Kissimmee, FL Jun 05, 2016 $350,000
Dentist Montano DDS Dental Center PC Baltimore, MD Feb 05, 2016 $313,050
Dentist Advana Dental & Dentures of Amarillo, PC. Amarillo, TX Jan 11, 2016 $310,000
Dentist Dental Dreams LLC York, PA Jan 10, 2016 $281,652
Dentist Dental Dreams LLC Harrisburg, PA Jan 10, 2016 $281,652
Dentist Foster McArthur Dental, PC Houston, TX Sep 16, 2015 $260,875
Dentist Foster McArthur Dental, PC Houston, TX Oct 01, 2015 $260,875
Dentist Dental Depot/Westminster Village LLC Oklahoma City, OK Sep 26, 2016 $250,857
Dentist Dental Arts of Bedford Bedford, NH Dec 21, 2015 $250,837
Dentist Dental Depot/Westminster Village LLC Oklahoma City, OK Jan 08, 2016 $250,000
Dentist David P Digiallorenzo DMD Inc. Williamsport, PA Jul 01, 2015 $250,000
Dentist Dental Dreams LLC Springfield, MA Nov 04, 2016 $150,000
Dentist Dental Dreams LLC Worcester, MA Sep 04, 2015 $150,000
Dentist Dental Experts LLC Rockford, IL Aug 30, 2016 $150,000
Dentist Dental Dreams LLC Springfield, MA Sep 01, 2015 $150,000
Dentist Dental Dreams LLC Springfield, MA Aug 29, 2015 $150,000
Dentist Jamil El-Samna DDS LLC North Bergen, NJ Jan 11, 2016 $150,000
Dentist Dental Dreams LLC Springfield, MA Apr 01, 2015 $150,000
Dentist Chetan Shivaram, DDS PC Canutillo, TX Jul 16, 2015 $150,000
Dentist Cape May Family Dental Pa Rio Grande, NJ Sep 20, 2016 $125,930
Dentist 2 State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services Shoreline, WA Sep 15, 2016 $125,804
Dentist Kool Smiles Mac, PC D/B/A Kool Smiles Holyoke, MA Nov 15, 2016 $125,757
Dentist Family Dental of Virginia LLC Richmond, VA Aug 18, 2015 $125,600
Dentist Family Dental of Virginia LLC Richmond, VA Jul 09, 2016 $125,600
Dentist Penta Dental LLC Stratford, CT Sep 01, 2015 $125,575 -
Dentist Penta Dental LLC Torrington, CT Sep 01, 2015 $125,575 -
Dentist Bright Dental Clinic, P.C. Hartford, CT Jul 14, 2015 $125,575

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Top Skills for A Dentist


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Top Dentist Skills

  1. Dentistry
  2. Dental Procedures
  3. Composite Restorations
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed General Dentistry, and Pediatric Dentistry on Mentally Challenged Children.
  • Buffalo NY: Volunteered and observed various dental procedures performed by Student Dentist.
  • General Dentist - treated patients' restorative needs with amalgam and composite restorations and performed extractions.
  • General examinations and treatment planning for patients.
  • Fixed and removable prosthesis: crowns, bridges, complete and partial dentures utilizing modern dental materials.

Top Dentist Employers

Dentist Videos

Dentist Salary Income | How Much Money Does a Dentist REALLY Make?

Dental Health : How Does a Dentist Fill a Cavity?

Dentist, Career Video from drkit.org