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Become A General Dentist

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Working As A General Dentist

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • Make Decisions

  • $125,408

    Average Salary

What Does A General 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 General 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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General Dentist jobs

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General Dentist Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Asian

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • Hindi

  • Russian

  • Korean

  • French

  • Portuguese

  • Arabic

  • Vietnamese

  • Chinese

  • Urdu

  • Ukrainian

  • Gujarati

  • Cantonese

  • Polish

  • Dutch

  • Mandarin

  • Armenian

  • Marathi

  • Greek

  • Italian

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General Dentist Education

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Real General Dentist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
General Dentist (Clinical Director) Familia Dental Amarillo PLLC Amarillo, TX Jun 24, 2016 $250,000
General Dentist Smilebuilderz, LLC Lancaster, PA Feb 12, 2016 $238,138
General Dentist Family Centers Inc. Greenwich, CT Jun 13, 2016 $208,700
General Dentist Family Centers, Inc. Greenwich, CT Jun 24, 2016 $208,700
General Dentist New England Family Dentistry PC Lawrence, MA Sep 09, 2015 $208,700
General Dentist Smilebuilderz LLC Lancaster, PA Jan 11, 2016 $200,000
General Dentist-Orthodontist Dexter Dental LLC Elgin, IL Aug 25, 2015 $200,000
General Dentist Familia Dental Ros LLC Roswell, NM Aug 28, 2015 $197,662
General Dentist Familia Dental Lubbock PLLC Lubbock, TX Jul 09, 2016 $197,600
General Dentist Familia Dental Hob LLC Hobbs, NM Jun 11, 2015 $197,600
General Dentist Familia Dental Hob LLC Hobbs, NM Jun 10, 2016 $197,600
General Dentist Familia Dental Plainview PLLC Plainview, TX Sep 18, 2016 $197,600
Lead General Dentist Network Provider Associates, P.C. Rowlett, TX Apr 25, 2016 $147,169 -
General Dentist Julie D Tran DDS LLC Alexandria, VA Jun 17, 2015 $146,090
General Dentist Julie D Tran DDS LLC Alexandria, VA May 13, 2016 $146,090
General Dentist Coast Dental of Nevada Inc. Las Vegas, NV Sep 15, 2016 $144,212
General Dentist Ruparelia Dental PC Monahans, TX Apr 14, 2016 $144,000
General Dentist Best Smiles Family Dental QC LLC Davenport, IA Sep 17, 2016 $144,000
General Dentist Ruparelia Dental PC Pecos, TX Jan 25, 2016 $144,000
Dentist, General Smile Leasing, PLLC Nacogdoches, TX Jan 09, 2016 $144,000
General Dentist Professional Dental Alliance Cleveland, OH Jan 15, 2015 $117,582
Dentist, General Crusaders Central Clinic Association Rockford, IL Aug 15, 2016 $117,520
General Dentist The Children's Dental Center of Greater Los Angeles Inglewood, CA Jan 09, 2016 $117,394
General Dentist Columbia Dental PC New Britain, CT Mar 16, 2015 $117,300
General Dentist Mt. Holly Family Dentistry NJ Jan 05, 2015 $116,730
General Dentist Gentle Dental Associates, LLC Natick, MA Sep 28, 2016 $116,314
General Dentist Willamette Dental Management Group Spokane, WA Aug 25, 2016 $116,000 -
General Dentist Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers, Inc. Saint Louis, MO Jul 01, 2015 $115,971

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Top Skills for A General Dentist


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Top General Dentist Skills

  1. Dental Procedures
  2. Restorative Dentistry
  3. Comprehensive Treatment Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Train and manage dental assistants to be proficient in tray preparation and dental procedures.
  • Practice is limited to restorative dentistry.
  • Maintained my patients hygiene recall, provided comprehensive treatment plans for patients as well as simple extractions and endodonticts.
  • Complete and partial dentures (Immediate and conventional) 8.
  • Performed mostly molar endodontic treatment for patients referred by colleagues.

Top General Dentist Employers

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