A dentist, or dental surgeon, is a medical care professional that is responsible for a number of preventative and restorative oral procedures. Dentists work with patients to maintain and restore quality health to everything within the mouth. Dentists are most commonly found working in community dentist offices, hospital dentistry, dental research centers, military, and educational institutions. Some may work self-employed in their own office as well. 

Dentist Job Description

A dentist is responsible for making sure that patients of all ages and sizes have their oral care needs covered. They are also responsible for providing their patients with the information that they need to prevent any problems from occurring to their teeth and mouth. This may include information on what foods should be avoided, how they can maintain proper dental health, and much more. 

They are required to help patients to recover from any diseases that affect the oral cavity. Diagnosis, preventative care, and treatment procedures to the teeth and mouth are all major components of a dentist’s job. There are also various other functions and procedures that may be performed by a dentist. Take a look below to see some of the wide range of tasks that may be performed by a dentist.

The job duties of a dentist include:

  • Evaluate the current health and condition of their patient’s teeth to determine diagnosis of dental condition, if any
  • Inform their patients on how to prevent dental problems and keep their teeth and mouth as healthy as possible
  • Complete treatment on affected gums, decayed and fractured teeth, and perform tooth removal for cases where there are high levels of decay
  • Consider treatment methods and explain the options with the patient to determine which works best for them based on their situation
  • Keep all equipment functional and clean
  • Maintain dental files for all patients
  • Monitor and evaluate any x-ray images for any part of the patient’s oral cavity
  • Refer patients to orthodontists or other dental specialist for more advanced procedures and care

How to Become a Dentist

To become a dentist in the United States, you must enrol in an university-based dental education program accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation(ADA CODA). Getting admission into any of these 56 dental schools will require you to meet all the criteria. Criteria may vary depending on the school, but most of them will follow the same four basic requirements as stated below:

  1. High school diploma or equivalency
  2. Completion of science courses (biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, etc.)
  3. Possession of Bachelor’s degree, unless applying to a school that accepts completion of a two to three year community college course
  4. Passing grade on the Dental Admission Test issued by the school

However, even after meeting all the requirements above, acceptance into dental school is extremely competitive. Due to the high amount applicants every year, only a select few are admitted. 

The education that is required to become a practicing dentist will be broken down into both classroom and clinical training. The classroom assignments will include work that covers anatomy, periodontology, anaesthesia, and radiology. Clinical training will require students to be placed in a dental care facility and provide assistance to dentists while working with patients. All activities are carried out under the supervision of a licensed dentist. The entire dental school program lasts four years to complete. 

Some dentists may choose to take additional training if they want to specialize in one of the nine specialties, such as orthodontics and periodontics. See below for a full list. Specialty training programs can take an extra 1 to 2 year. For those who want to pursue a career in research or teaching, their training can range anywhere from 2 to 5 years.

Nine Dentistry Specialties:

  1. Dental public health 
  2. Endodontics 
  3. Oral and maxillofacial pathology 
  4. Oral and maxillofacial radiology 
  5. Oral and maxillofacial surgery 
  6. Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics 
  7. Periodontics (also periodontology) 
  8. Pediatric dentistry (formerly pedodontics) 
  9. Prosthodontics 

Dentist Certification

All dentists practicing in the United States must be licensed. To become licensed, applicants must have completed an education program from an accredited dental school. They then have to write and pass the National Board Dental Examinations administered by the American Dental Association. Candidates are also required to take a clinical examination, however, this does not apply to all the states. The State of New York requires students to complete an additional year of postgraduate dental studies while California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Washington offers students this option as an alternative to the clinical examination.

Dentist Salary

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Dentist Job Description Summary

  • Responsible for preventative and restorative oral procedures
  • Work with dental hygienists and dental assistants
  • 4 years of dental school program
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 16% employment growth by 2022