All 50 States and the District of Columbia require dentists to be
licensed. To qualify for a license in most States, candidates must
graduate from 1 of the 57 dental schools accredited by the American
Dental Association's (ADA's) Commission on Dental Accreditation,
and then must pass written and practical examinations.
Dental schools require
a minimum of 2 years of college-level predental education prior to
admittance. Most dental students have at least a bachelor's degree
before entering dental school, although a few applicants are accepted to
dental school after 2 or 3 years of college and complete their
bachelor's degree while attending dental school. According to the ADA,
85 percent of dental students had a bachelorís degree prior to beginning
their dental program in the 2006-07 academic year.
High school and college
students who want to become dentists should take courses in biology,
chemistry, physics, health, and mathematics. College undergraduates
planning on applying to dental school are required to take many science
courses. Because of this, some choose a major in a science, such as
biology or chemistry, while others take the required science coursework
while pursuing a major in another subject.
dental schools require applicants to take the Dental Admissions Test
(DAT). When selecting students, schools consider scores earned on the
DAT, applicants' grade point averages, and information gathered through
recommendations and interviews. Competition for admission to dental
school is keen.
Dental school usually lasts 4 academic years. Studies begin with
classroom instruction and laboratory work in science, including anatomy,
microbiology, biochemistry, and physiology. Beginning courses in
clinical sciences, including laboratory techniques, are also completed.
During the last 2 years, students treat patients, usually in dental
clinics, under the supervision of licensed dentists. Most dental schools
award the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). Others award an
equivalent degree, Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).
Some dental school graduates work for established dentists as associates
for 1 to 2 years to gain experience and save money to equip an office of
their own. Most dental school graduates, however, purchase an
established practice or open a new one immediately after graduation.
is required to practice as a dentist. In most States, licensure requires
passing written and practical examinations in addition to having a
degree from an accredited dental school. Candidates may fulfill the
written part of the State licensing requirements by passing the National
Board Dental Examinations. Individual States or regional testing
agencies administer the written or practical examinations.
Individuals can be licensed to practice any of the 9 recognized
specialties in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Requirements
include 2 to 4 years of postgraduate education and, in some cases, the
completion of a special State examination. A postgraduate residency term
also may be required, usually lasting up to 2 years. Most State licenses
permit dentists to engage in both general and specialized practice.
requires diagnostic ability and manual skills. Dentists should have good
visual memory, excellent judgment regarding space, shape, and color, a
high degree of manual dexterity, and scientific ability. Good business
sense, self-discipline, and good communication skills are helpful for
success in private practice.
Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation is the nationally
recognized accrediting authority for
dental education accreditation. Graduates receive either a DDS or DMD degree. Dentists
who want to teach or conduct research usually spend an additional 2 to 5
years in advanced dental training, in programs operated by dental
schools or hospitals. Be sure to check whether a program is accredited prior to enrolling.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.