How to Become a Dentist
The D.M.D. and the D.D.S. are dentist degrees that are awarded to students upon completion of dental programs.
While many graduates enter general practice after graduation, some choose additional education in a residency program or a specialty area.
Whatever route, you must first get an undergraduate degree, followed by dentistry school, and then get your license.
1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)
You have to get your bachelor's degree if you want to go to dentistry school. Some dental schools will let you finish out your undergrad study in the program after about 2 or 3 years of college.
There is no specific pre-dental major, but it wouldn't hurt to take a pre-med major as it will give you the prerequisites in biology, chemistry, math, and physics you need for dentistry school.
A pre-med major could look like the following:
|Grade Level||Example Courses|
2. Take the Dental Admission Test (DAT)
After your undergrad you will need to go to dental school and to do that you need to take and pass the Dental Admission Test (DAT). To get into dental school you need to have a good DAT score, undergrad GPA, interviews and letters of recommendation.
The DAT is designed to measure general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information, and perceptual ability. The DAT is administered year round.
The DAT is comprised of multiple-choice questions and consists of four tests:
- Survey of the Natural Sciences
- Perceptual Ability
- Reading Comprehension
- Quantitative Reasoning
In the DAT, both the U.S. customary system and the metric system (Imperial System, International System) of units are used.
|Survey of the Natural Sciences||
3. Earn a Dental Degree (4 Years)
Dental school usually lasts four years and results in a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. You need to find a program that is accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation.
During the first two years of dental school, students focus on classroom and laboratory studies in health and dental science. Courses may include the following:
- Oral pathology
- Dental Anesthesia
The last two years emphasize clinical practice in which students diagnosis and treat patients under the supervision of dental instructors.
4. Earn the Required License
The 2-part written exam covers dental sciences, ethics and clinical procedures:
|NBDE Part I||
|NBDE Part II||
After the national exam, you have to pass a practical exam given by your state licensing board. Check with your state to determine your requirements.
5. Consider a Specialization
While dentists usually go into general dentistry, some choose specialty areas. Post-DMD or post-DDS education options are available to licensed dentists.
There are nine specialties to choose from:
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Dental public health
- Pediatric dentistry
- Oral and maxiollofacial radiology
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
Becoming a specialist can take up to 4 years of additional education and, in some cases, will involve a residency of up to two years.