Dentistry is a rewarding profession in terms of both earning potential and job satisfaction. You already know that you want to be a dentist, but no matter how sure you are about your ultimate career goals, you may not know how to get there.
Undergraduate Options for Aspiring Dentists
Just as aspiring doctors wonder about the best bachelor’s degrees for getting into medical school, aspiring dentists may wonder how they can best use their undergraduate college education to prepare for a dental school program. Though competitive, most dental schools don’t require that students have a specific undergraduate degree as a prerequisite. The best way students can prepare themselves for dental school is by majoring in a field of science and taking courses such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, physics and mathematics. Such a program of study provides students with the educational backgrounds they will need to succeed in dental school, and it illustrates to dental school recruiters that the student has this academic background.
In addition to choosing the right course of study, it’s important that aspiring dentists get good grades during their undergraduate careers. Like students who intend to pursue medical school, it may be helpful for students who want to get into dental school to spend time volunteering or shadowing an established professional. Students must also take a standardized test called the Dental Acceptance Test (DAT) during their undergraduate educations, usually as juniors, to apply to medical school programs.
In the United States, there are two degrees that can qualify graduates to become licensed dentists: the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree and the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree. The American Dental Association recognizes more than 50 accredited dental programs in the nation, including both DDS programs and DDM programs. In fact, the curriculum is basically the same regardless of which degree a school chooses to award, according to the American Dental Association. Students in either program will study course material such as radiology, anatomy, the administration of local anesthesia and periodontology, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Students in either type of program will also gain hands-on experience working with patients.
After completing dental school, graduates must obtain licensure in the state in which they intend to practice. They may also choose to specialize, which can require additional years of training and additional tests. Aspiring dentists should expect to continue learning throughout their career, learning about new technologies in the field of dental care and fulfilling continuing education requirements.
During your path into the career of dentistry, you will have several decisions to make. You can choose which science major to study as an undergraduate, whether to earn a DDS or DDM, and whether you want to specialize. Though a single academic path would make your decisions easier, these options give you the freedom to make sure your education best prepares you for fulfilling the specific career goals you have in mind.