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What It Takes To Become A Dentist
Jul 27, 2022


Dentists are extensively trained and educated medical professionals. It takes at least eight years of schooling to get started on this career path, and many dentists continue their education well beyond that. Learn more about what it takes to become a dentist and find out how you can find the best dentist for your needs. It’s important to always work with a licensed practitioner who is skilled in the areas most important to you, whether you’re looking for general dentistry or a particular specialty.

Dental School Prerequisites

Prospective dentists should attain a four-year bachelor’s degree before entering dental school. Prerequisites vary somewhat by the school, but most require an undergraduate education with at least eight hours each of:

  • Biology with a lab component.
  • Physics.
  • General chemistry with a lab component.
  • Organic chemistry with a lab component.
  • English.

Dental school applicants must take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) at least a year before they’re admitted to dental school. Admissions committees will assess the applicant’s DAT results, as well as their GPA, letters of recommendation, and other academic qualifications.

Accredited Dental School

To become a licensed dentist, you must graduate from a school that’s accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Dentists may graduate with either a doctorate of dental surgery (DDS) or a doctorate of dental medicine (DMD). The educational requirements are the same for both degrees and equip dentists to provide patients with optimal oral health and a fantastic smile.

Dental Licensure

Each state has its own unique requirements for licensure. Nearly all states require that dentists have a DDS or DMD and pass a two-part examination. In most jurisdictions, dentists must also pass a clinical examination. Most dental students will take these exams during the last year or two of schooling. In nearly all states, dentists must have passed these exams within five years of their application for licensure. Many states added additional licensing requirements in the wake of COVID-19 as well.

Dental Specialties

Dentists who want to work within a particular field of specialty must undergo additional schooling. The National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards recognizes the following dental specialties:

  • Dental anesthesiology.
  • Dental public health.
  • Endodontics.
  • Oral and maxillofacial pathology.
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery.
  • Oral and maxillofacial radiology.
  • Oral medicine.
  • Orofacial pain.
  • Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics.
  • Pediatric dentistry.
  • Periodontics.
  • Prosthodontics.

How To Choose a Dentist

Though most dentists undergo a similar education, every practitioner is different. You should begin your search by making sure that any potential dentist has the appropriate degree. If you’re looking for specialty care, seek out a dentist with specialty licensure. Check out dentist profiles for potential providers to learn more about their background, interests, and personality. When you find a dentist who meets your preferred qualifications, you can set up a consultation. This gives you a chance to meet one on one and make sure the provider is a good fit.

If you’re looking for a qualified dentist working within a friendly practice, consider turning to The Dental Care Center of Higgins, Mani, Watson DDS PA for your needs. You can contact us at 888-978-1779 to learn more or schedule your consultation. We look forward to meeting you!