How to Become a Dentist

How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist

How to Become a Dentist in the US

Since with age, the body demands for proper oral health care, the dentists play a major role in taking care of it. If you want to become a professional dentist who practices in top-faculty hospitals, this is a perfect guide. With a brighter career scope and higher payroll, dentists are becoming famous with the passing day. As of 2015, the American Dental Association reported that 196,000 dentists were practicing throughout the country. Moreso, more than 26,000 roles will add on in the coming years. To become a licensed dentist and know the basics of what the career entails, follow this guide. 

If you want to specialize in the complete care and treatment of the human body, you can also read our blog:-

How to Become a Doctor

Who is a Dentist?

A dentist is a doctor who takes care of human teeth and gums after they graduate from a four-year dental degree. A dentist seeks the title of a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) after getting a licence to practice the same. 

Types of Dentists 

There are different dentists because not all perform the same tasks even though all dentists focus on human teeth. The normal dentist that every human being goes for a general dental check-up is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). If you visit an unspecialized DDS with a dental problem, they’ll call a specialist to help him with your problem. Hence all dentists depend on each other in the fields that are not related to them. Also, it is very simple and easy to find a dentist as someone or the other amongst your family or friends will have their dentist. They will refer them to you, but what you need to know is, is he the right dentist for your dental problem? Well, let us find out. Here are the types of dentists that you can adopt for your future. 

To know more about the various fields in medical care, also read our blogs:-

How to Become a Medical Assistant

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Traditional dentists

These are the DDS dentists equipped and specialized in cleaning, identifying, and treating the teeth. They are not specialized in in-depth dental procedures like the ones you will see below.

Oral Pathologists

Oral pathologists take care of oral parts to prevent serious dental problems in the mouth. These problems can be cancerous or a severe infection that needs immediate attention.

Cosmetic dentists

Cosmetic dentists specialize in broken teeth, malformed teeth, and stained teeth. They also can correct your smile hidden by your teeth’ problems.


They are dental professionals who fix crooked teeth or un-proportioned teeth by adding retainers or braces. Usually, orthodontists look problems in teens and rarely in young and older adults.


Periodontists treat problems related to the gums and bones that surround the teeth.


They help patients with swallowing and speech-related problems due to an accident or long illness. They help by adding dentures, dental implants, or facial and oral prostheses.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons

This is one of the specialties amongst the nine specialties in dentistry. These surgeons operate on the face, neck, head, jaws, and soft and hard tissues of the maxillofacial area to correct or cure diseases.

Pediatric Dentists

Pediatric dentists treat dental problems in children, infants, and adolescents. They are the same as general dentists. But, seek training in handling peculiar behaviors and fears of children when they visit a dentist.


Endodontists take care of root canals, dental nerve, and pulp diseases.

So these are the nine specialties in dentistry that can help you find the best one for becoming a dentist. In the United States, the number of practicing Oral Pathologists is low. As per the American Academy of Oral Maxillofacial Pathology, there are only 250 practicing members in 44 states in the U.S. 

Also, amongst these members, some of them are only teaching at universities. The highest number of Oral Pathologists in a state is in New York, Texas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida. The other states have less than ten practicing oral pathologists. So, over one million people in a state have only one practicing oral pathologist to attend to them. Some states do not have a single practicing oral pathologist.

Educational Qualification to Become a Dentist 

To become a dentist might be a little rough in the beginning. But, after you reach a certain level through the journey, you will glide away as if you’re on butter. Still, the continuation of hard work, dedication, and concentration is the need all through dentistry.

There are two paths in dentistry. One is general, and the other is a specialist. You will read further on how to divert from being a general dentist to a specialist.

Undergraduate Degree

The first prerequisite is a high school diploma or equal to subjects in science (Chemistry, biology, and physics), math, and English. Then take a four-year bachelor’s degree in any science-related course but make sure it also has a little math and English.

Postgraduate Degree 

Once you graduate from your bachelor’s degree, you must sit for the Dental Entrance Test (DAT). This exam is to get into any dentistry postgraduate programs in the U.S. Remember; there is a tough competition out there of students trying to get admission into dental school. So make sure you score well in DAT to ensure your route to become a dentist.

DAT Test

Now that you have passed the DAT test with a good score, you need to look for ADA (American Dental Association) accredited colleges. Post that and register yourself for a four-year postgraduate program in dentistry.

For the first two years of the four-year program, the syllabus covers classroom and laboratory work. The work has the main basis on subjects such as Physiology, Microbiology, anatomy, and biochemistry. The remaining two years takes place in clinical in either dental hospitals or dental clinics. The course takes place under the supervision of a licensed DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). After the completion of your postgraduate dentistry, you will seek an award as a DDS. One more step to go, and you can practice as a DDS. You will need a state license to practice.

National Board Dental Examination

You will have to sit for the NBDE (National Board Dental Examination) exam to get your license to practice in the U.S. and if you want to study further. So now you are an official DDS, and you want to study further and become a specialty dentist.

To specialize in any particular field such as:-

  • Orthodontists
  • Endodontists
  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Pediatric Dentist
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • Prosthodontist, and Oral Pathology

You will have to take a master’s degree or a three or four-year internship in any of the above fields and pass it. Then you will have to get a license to practice in that field.

Many individuals do not go with dentistry, as they don’t know. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dentist?

If you choose to be a DDS, a family dentist, it will take eight years (4 years undergraduate + 4 years dental school). If you wish to specialize in a particular area, it will take 10 to 12 years, depending on the specialization.

How Much do Dentists Make?

If you got out of college, then you might not start earning a very good salary immediately unless your dad owns a dental clinic in which you can practice. But, you can make anywhere between $80,000 to $250,000 in the first couple of years, especially if you are working for the military as a dentist. A specialty dentist can make much more than a DDS because they put in more money and time in continuing education after becoming a DDS. Remember, it is the location and workplace that will play a major role in determining your salary.

  • An Orthodontist can make $401,000 on an average per year, depending on the location and place of work.
  • An Endodontist makes about $150,000 to $300,000 average per year.
  • A Pediatric Dentist will seek the highest salary in Oregon, with the average salary being $215,000 to $250,000 per year. Still, on average, a Pediatric Dentist will earn anywhere between $150,000 to $180,000 per year in the U.S.
  • An Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon will earn about $350,000 to $450,000 avg per year.
  • A Prosthodontist will earn about $100,000 to $210,000 avg per year.
  • An oral pathologist will get $190,000 to $290,000 avg per year.

Once again, I would like to emphasize that salaries of dentists vary:-

  • as per their experience
  • the geographical region (where they are working)
  • place of work (hospital, private clinic, or own practice)
  • specialization, and how much dental work they do in a day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *