These specialized dentists commonly work on patients of every age group. Licensure is required prior to practice. Applicants must successfully graduate from a dental school that is accredited and pass the practical and written exams.
Education & Training
Prior to entering dental school, dental students require a bachelor's degree; however, each school has their own requirements. Dental schools accept students who have finished certain science courses including chemistry and biology. There is no particular dental major required; although, majoring in biology or a science may increase one's chances of acceptance.
Those who wish to apply to dental school take the DAT or Dental Acceptance Test in their junior year. It is competitive to enter dental school. These tests are in place with other factors including recommendations and grade point average to admit the right students into the program.
Classes including the study of oral disease and health or periodontology, anatomy, radiology and local anesthesia are covered. Every dental school requires practical practice where students work on patients in a clinical atmosphere while being supervised by a licensed dentist.
Those in high school who are considering a dental career should take courses in anatomy, chemistry, math and physics.
There are 9 different dental specialties. Each one requires additional training prior to practice. Typically, a 1 or 2 year residency program is completed in relation to their specialty. Those practicing general dentistry do not require additional training post dental school. Those wishing to teach or conduct research on a full time basis often spend an extra 2 to 5 years attending advanced dental training. A number of practicing dentists choose to teach part time at dental school clinics supervising students.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Every dentist requires a license. The majority of places prefer dentists who have a degree from an accredited dental school and who pass the practical exam along with the written exam.
Dentists who wish to practice in one of the 9 specialty areas require a license in that specialty. Typically, this requires 2 to 4 years of extra schooling. In certain specialties, completing a special state exam is necessary. Post secondary residency terms may be additionally required which can last up to 2 years.
Skills and Qualities that will Help
Communication skills: Excellent communication skills are necessary between patients, dental assistants, hygienists, receptionists and support staff.
Detail oriented: In order to ensure the proper medications and treatment are administered, dentists need to be detail orientated. They must pay close attention to the teeth and their shape, space and shade. If they are matching a false tooth alongside the patient's teeth, color matching is vital.
Dexterity: Dentists need to be adept at working with their hands. They only have limited space to work within.
Leadership skills: The majority of dentists have their own practice and this means they have to be capable of leading and managing their staff.
Organizational skills: Keeping accurate records of every patient and their subsequent treatment is part of being a successful dentist. These skills are crucial in both business and medical environments.
Patience: Dentists commonly work for extended periods of time with patients who require highly specialized attention. Individuals who fear the dentist and young patients may require extra patience.
Physical stamina: Dentists ideally should be comfortable performing physical tasks such as being on their feet and bending over patients for extended time frames.
Problem-solving skills: Being able to evaluate every unique patient's mouth and determine the appropriate course of action requires strong problem solving abilities.