How To Become a Dentist in 5 Steps 2023
Becoming a dentist requires at least eight years of schooling: four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and four years in dental school to earn either a Doctor of Dental Surgery, DDS or Doctor of Dental Medicine, DDM. In some cases, you will also need to complete a dental residency.
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1. Go to High School
Becoming a dentist requires you to undergo at least eight years of education following high school. That’s four years of undergraduate college plus four more of dental school to earn your Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).
Take advanced placement science classes as early as possible, including biology and chemistry. This will prepare you for the Dental Admission Test and help boost your GPA.
Consider joining a pre-dental club to learn more about the profession and find out if it’s right for you. Volunteer at a local dentist’s office and shadow a dentist to get a feel for the job.
Most dental schools require a degree with certain prerequisite science courses, but you can choose your course of study based on what interests you most. Be sure to include some courses that emphasize math and science.
2. Get a Bachelor’s Degree
Dentists are trained healthcare professionals devoted to improving and maintaining oral health. They use their knowledge, expertise and innovative tools to diagnose, treat and prevent problems with teeth, gums and surrounding tissues.
Most dental schools require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree before they will admit them. It’s recommended to major in a science area like biology and chemistry, as this will help you fulfill prerequisite requirements such as anatomy and microbiology. Some universities also offer a pre-dental plan of study that you can follow to make sure you’re taking the right classes for your future career.
Some dentists choose to specialize in an area of dentistry, such as endodontics or orthodontics, which requires an additional two to four years of education and may involve a residency program. This can increase your earning potential.
3. Get Accepted to Dental School
If you’re a nontraditional student, the dental school application process can seem especially daunting. But if you’re smart about your preparation, you can build a strong case for why you’re ready to make the transition to dentistry.
For example, your personal statement should emphasize your unique background and why you believe it will make you an effective dentist. Moreover, you can highlight the fact that your life experiences have taught you to persevere and work hard.
You’ll also want to consider your DAT score, GPA, and extracurricular activities. But remember that schools take a holistic approach to reviewing applicants, and there are students accepted with lower GPAs and DAT scores than national averages. Additionally, be aware of state licensing requirements for dentists. They vary widely by state.
4. Pass the Dental Admission Test
You can take steps to improve your chances of getting accepted into dental school by earning good grades throughout undergrad and gaining leadership experience in extracurricular activities that align with your career goals. Letters of recommendation also play a significant role in the admissions process and it is important to start requesting letters early on in your undergrad career.
The DAT is a standardized test that allows dental schools to compare applicants on an even playing field. It consists of three sections; natural science (70 questions with an emphasis on biology and general chemistry) perceptual ability (20 questions) and oral assessment (30 questions on topics like view recognition, angle discrimination, paper folding and cube counting).
A competitive DAT score is 20 or higher. It’s not easy but it is achievable with dedicated study and preparation.
5. Get Licensed
It takes at least eight years to become a dentist, and many more to specialize in a particular area. The first step is getting a bachelor’s degree, followed by dental school for four years to earn your Doctor of Dental Surgery, or DDS, or Doctor of Dental Medicine, or DMD.
After graduation, you’ll need to pass the National Board Dental Examinations, which includes both a written and clinical portion. Your state may also have additional licensing requirements.
While it can be a long road, dentistry offers a lot of rewards. For example, if someone is in pain and you can relieve it quickly, that’s a powerful feeling. Moreover, you can improve the self-esteem of someone who’s insecure about their smile with just a little work.