Choosing a career is one of the most important
decisions you will ever make. The information below will help
you explore one exciting career possibility dentistry.
It will help you decide if dentistry is for
There are many unique opportunities and benefits
within your reach if you choose a dental career.
A message is included for parents. You can
use it as a starting point for discussions with them relative
to your future career plans.
Take your questions to dentists, counselors
and teachers in your community. Remember that it's your future,
your career and your choice.
Dentistry provides many unique opportunities
to treat patients who have a wide variety of dental needs.
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Dentistry A Career
for the Future
Most dentists practicing today made their
career decision in late high school or early college. It is
never too soon or too late to begin some serious thinking
about your career in dentistry.
To get started, you will need to know what
dentistry offers. This section discusses dentistry's many
challenges and rewards.
Variety Dentistry is a rapidly changing,
expanding profession, involving:
- Detection of diseases: Dentists
are often the first health care professionals to recognize
and identify a wide variety of diseases, ranging from hypertension
- Diagnosis: Dentists diagnose and
treat problems affecting the teeth, gingival tissue, tongue,
lips and jaws. To accomplish this, they utilize new technology
such as computers and magnetic resonance imaging.
- Esthetic improvement: Dentists improve
patients' appearance by using a wide variety of cosmetic
dental procedures. These services can make patients feel
better about their smiles.
- Surgical restoration: To repair,
restore and maintain the teeth, gums and oral tissues that
have been lost or damaged by accidents or diseases, dentists
perform trauma surgery, implants, tissue grafts and laser
- Public education/prevention: Dentists
teach good habits for good health. They educate their patients,
as well as the general public, on how to achieve oral health
and prevent disease.
Dentists treat people, not just teeth and
mouths. They interact with people of all ages, cultures and
personalities. The dentist's typical day is diverse and interesting.
Creativity Dentists are artists as
well as scientists. To brighten one tooth or realign an entire
jaw, dentists must have an artist's esthetic sense to help
their patients look their best.
Prestige Dentists provide an essential
health care service. They are highly respected within the
Dentists are skilled, conscientious, civic-minded
individuals who work with community leaders, educators, other
health professionals and government officials. They often
volunteer services to school health programs and to elderly,
handicapped or poor citizens, demonstrating a selflessness
that is a hallmark of professionalism.
Flexibility Dentistry allows you
to be your own boss. Dentists can balance their personal and
professional lives to meet their individual needs and desires.
Dentistry provides opportunities in a variety
of private and public settings including private practice,
teaching, research, public health and administration.
Security The average income of a
dentist is in the highest 8% of U.S. family income. The demand
for dental care will continue to grow. The increasing number
of older adults are keeping their teeth longer, are more aware
of the importance of regular dental care and require more
dental services. Geriatric dental care and the greatly increased
demand for newer services, such as cosmetic dentistry, also
will contribute to this growth.
Personal Satisfaction A career in
dentistry is personally fulfilling. Dentists perform an important
public service to help people maintain their health and appearance.
To serve the present and future oral health needs of their
patients, dentists enjoy the challenge of a lifetime of learning.
Tomorrow's dentists will be at the cutting edge of high technology,
making the practice of dentistry even more exciting and rewarding
than it is today.
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for Minorities and Women
Dentistry offers minority students exceptional
career opportunities. The need for dentists from minority
groups is very strong. Dental care may be accepted more readily
when the dentist has knowledge of the patient's language and
insight into their cultural background.
Career opportunities for women in dentistry
are also particularly good at this time.
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The Dental Specialties
There are more than 166,000 active dentists
in the U.S. today. Most dentists practice general dentistry,
giving them the capability of providing comprehensive care
to a wide variety of patients. Some dentists choose to limit
their practices to one of the nine
recognized dental specialties.
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Getting a Dental
Now is the time to start planning your predental
How to Prepare for Dental School
Contact several dental schools and inquire
about their specific requirements. Talk with admissions officers.
If you are in high school, enroll in college
preparatory classes in chemistry, biology and algebra. Get
a broad exposure to science and math. A well-rounded liberal
arts education is desirable.
If you are in college, build a solid foundation
in the natural sciences, especially general biology and inorganic
and organic chemistry. Psychology and business courses can
also provide background important to your success as a dentist.
You don't have to major in science, but you will need to complete
the predental science courses.
Talk with a counselor or advisor who is knowledgeable
about the health professions. Visit that counselor or advisor
Talk to your dentist. Ask to spend a day or
two in his or her office. The local dental society may be
able to direct you to other sources of information.
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Applying to Dental School
Prepare for and take the Dental
Admission Test (DAT) a year before you anticipate entering
dental school. The DAT is one of several measures of a person's
potential for academic success in dental school. It is usually
administered to students who have completed at least one year
of college-level courses in biology and chemistry.
Apply for admission at least a year in advance.
Most college students apply for dental school during their
Most dental schools require personal interviews
with candidates to assess attributes such as desire to help
people, ability to get along well with others, self-confidence,
ability to meet challenges and capacity to work independently.
The personal interview also allows you to ask questions about
the school and its services.
Most dental schools participate in the American
Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS).
This simplifies the application process. Generally, only one
application for admission needs to be completed. To initiate
an application to any of the schools participating in AADSAS,
a candidate must obtain an official Application Request brochure
from his or her predental advisor, a participating dental
school or AADSAS (1625 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20036-2212). If a particular school does not participate
in AADSAS, the applicant should obtain application materials
directly from the school.
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The Dental School Curriculum
A dental education usually requires a minimum
of two years of college and four years of dental school. If
you decide to go into one of the eight specialties, you'll
need a minimum of two years of additional schooling.
The dental curriculum can be divided into
three broad areas:
- Basic health sciences, including anatomy,
biochemistry, histology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology
and physiology, with emphasis on dental aspects.
- Application of these health sciences, providing
patient care in dental school clinics.
- Practice management, including talking
with patients, the use and management of dental office staff,
business management, professional ethics and community health.
Dental schools grant doctoral degrees in dentistry.
All dental programs in the U.S. are accredited.
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Tuition, Expenses and Financial Assistance
Although dental school may seem expensive,
recent studies indicate that dental school is a good investment--a
better investment than many other professional educations.
One study showed that dental offices were the third highest
ranking category of start-up businesses most likely to survive.
In addition to tuition, the cost of a dental education includes
books, fees, instruments and living expenses. Many dental
students cover educational expenses through readily available
loans; limited scholarships and grants are available for deserving
Dentistry combines a working knowledge of
the basic sciences, technical skill and the art of communicating
Dentistry offers your son or daughter prestige,
variety, flexibility and financial reward. Financial assistance
(for dental education) in the form of loans is readily available
from a variety of sources.
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A Message to Parents
If your son or daughter demonstrates scientific
ability and interest, works well with people and enjoys helping
others, he or she may derive lifelong satisfaction from a
career in dentistry.
As a parent whose son or daughter is considering
becoming a dentist, you undoubtedly have many questions. What
employment opportunities does a dental career offer? Is dental
school a good financial investment?
A dental education is a sound financial investment
that will more than pay for itself in terms of financial benefits
and other rewards.
Those who choose dentistry face a considerable
challenge. The demands before, during and after dental school
are many, but the rewards will be even greater. Dentistry
offers your son or daughter prestige, variety, flexibility
and financial reward.
A major concern of any potential dental student's
family is cost. Though a dental education may be expensive,
it is within the reach of people from all economic backgrounds.
Financial assistance in the form of loans
is readily available from a variety of sources One excellent
source is a package of federal and private loans developed
especially for dental students by the American Dental Education
Association (ADEA) and the American Student Dental Association
(ASDA). Further information regarding this loan program may
be obtained by calling, toll-free, 1-800-225-6783. Financial
aid officers at each of the dental schools also may be able
to assist you by providing information about other loan programs.
Since loans are available, the financial support
required from parents may not amount to more than help with
living expenses for the dental student. The average educational
debt of the new dental graduate is about six months average
net income of dentists in this country.
Talk to your son or daughter about a dental
career. By helping him or her decide, you'll provide the foundation
for a future of satisfaction and success.
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For More Information
For more information, see the list of accredited
United States and Canadian dental schools
The American Dental Education Association
publishes a valuable guide for students interested in a career
in dentistry. This publication is entitled Admission Requirements
of U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools and may be obtained by
writing or calling:
American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
1625 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-2212
The American Student Dental Association publishes
the ASDA Handbook, which contains more useful information
on requirements for application and admission to dental schools
in the United States. Additionally, ASDA offers a predental
membership to individuals interested in a dental career. For
further details, write or call:
American Student Dental Association (ASDA)
211 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2616
For additional information, contact the dental
school nearest you or the local dental society component of
the American Dental Association.
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