Do You Want to be a Dentist When You Grow Up?

If you have decided that you want to be a dentist when you grow up, you’ve chosen a great career! Dentistry is one of the best professions for people who enjoy helping others, people who enjoy learning about and working in the medical field, and people who enjoy educating patients. As a dentist, you can do nearly anything that you want in terms of oral health, but you need to make sure that you’re preparing in the right way. Here is what you need to know — and what you need to do — to become a dentist when you grow up.

The Earlier You Prepare to Become a Dentist, the Better

Even if you’re still in junior high or high school, you can start preparing to become a dentist right now. Start by choosing the type of elective courses that you’ll be able to use in college and in dentistry school. The more science and math courses that you can take, the better.
If you’re old enough to get a part-time job while you’re in school, try to find a job working in a local dentist’s office. While you won’t be doing any dentistry, you’ll get a chance to observe the dentist and dental hygienist in action quite often — and this is extremely helpful in helping you solidify your decision to become a dentist.

Your College Path: Preparing For Dental School

Your college path is very important when you want to become a dentist. Although you can technically get into dentistry school with nearly any type of undergraduate degree, it’s important to know that dentistry schools are usually more interested in students who have earned degrees in science or math. For example, a biology or chemistry degree can be especially helpful in preparing you for the type of work you’ll be doing in dentistry school.
Of course, it’s important to get the best grades possible while you’re in college — and in fact, those good grades can help you earn scholarships or qualify for financial aid when it’s time for dental school. You can take the Dental Admission Test — the dentist’s version of the Medical College Admissions Test that doctors must take — while you’re a junior in college. It’s best to take it as early as you’re able, which allows you to retake the test if you’re not satisfied with your scores. In total, you’re allowed to take the Dental Admission Test three times.

Dental School

When you start applying to dental schools — ideally this should be done when you’re in your last year of college — focus only on schools that have American Dental Association accreditation. These colleges issue respected degrees in either dental surgery or dental medicine. At the time of your dental school application, you’ll have to provide Dental Admission Test scores.
There are two common degree programs among dentistry schools: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Your dental school program will last for a total of four years and will include a mix of classroom time, clinical instruction, and hands-on experience. When you’re in your third year of dentistry school, you’ll do an externship in a dental clinic. This allows you to get hands-on experience under the supervision of an experienced dentist.
If you plan to specialize in a certain area of dentistry, you may choose to complete anywhere from two to six additional years of intensive study in that field. For example, if you want to become an oral surgeon you would need to undergo this additional training. This specialist training typically requires a residency, as well.
As you can tell, the path to becoming a dentist requires at least four years of college and four years of dentistry school. As long as you stay focused on the end goal — and truly have a passion for dentistry — this might just be the ideal career for you.
At the Pediatric Dentistry of Central Florida, our dentists are highly respected specialists in the field of pediatrics and we’re proud to be serving the community. Contact us anytime to arrange a visit!