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How to Become a Dentist

First professional degree

Most dentists work with a variety of patients of all ages. Different areas have varied licensing requirements. In order to qualify for a license, applicants must graduate from an accredited dental school and pass practical and written exams.

Education & Training

The majority of dentists require a minimum of a bachelor's degree prior to entering dental school. Every school has their own specific requirements. Applicants are required to have completed a variety of science classes including chemistry and biology. Individuals who major in a science such as biology may increase their chances of being accepted; however no particular major is necessary to enter the majority of dental programs.

The Dental Acceptance Test or DAT is taken by college undergraduates who desire applying to dental school. This test is usually taken during junior year. It can be extremely competitive to enter dental school. In order to narrow down the applications, dental schools use grade point average and these tests to determine admittance.

Students are required to take the following studies: anatomy, local anesthesia, radiology and periodontology or the study of oral health and disease. Dental school includes practicum where students practice on patients within a clinical setting while being supervised by a licensed dentist. High school students wishing to pursue a dental career should complete courses in mathematics, physics, anatomy, biology and chemistry.


There are 9 dental specialties that require dentists to finish additional training prior to practicing that specialty. This typically includes a 1 or 2 year residency program that is related to their specialty. General dentists however, do not require any additional training once dental school is complete.

Dentists who prefer to do research or teach full time normally spend an additional 2 to 5 years in advanced dental training. Numerous practicing dentists enjoy teaching part time including student

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Dentists require licenses and requirements vary from location to location. Most places require a dentist to have a degree from an accredited dental school. Successful completion of a practical and written exam is also required.

A dentist who wishes to practice in one of the 9 specialties needs to be licensed in that specialty. Typically, this calls for an extra 2 to 4 years of additional education once dental school is finished. In certain cases, completion of a special state exam is necessary. Some specialties require a postgraduate residency term that can last as long as 2 years.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Communication Skills: Dentists must be able to clearly communicate with their patients, dental assistants, dental hygienists and receptionists.

Detail Oriented: Dentists need to be detail oriented in order for patients to receive proper medications and treatments. They must constantly take note of the position, color, shape and space of a patient's teeth so they can accurately match any restorations.

Dexterity: Dentists have to be capable of working with their hands. They have limited space to work with their tools.

Leadership Skills: The majority of dentists have their own practice. This means they have to be able to manage and lead their staff.

Organizational Skills: It is necessary to have strong organizational skills. A critical component for business and medical settings is being able to keep accurate records of patient care.

Patience: It is common for dentists to work for extended periods of time with patients who require special attention. Patients and children who rear dental work may require extra patience.

Physical Stamina: It is important for dentists for feel comfortable performing physical tasks including leaning and bending over their patients for extended periods of time.

Problem-Solving Skills: Dentists have to constantly evaluate their patient's symptoms in order to choose the appropriate treatment and logical course of action.