While many of us are frightened to visit the dentist, others find that they have a fascination with the dental sciences and might be considering a career in them. Naturally, the first question in their minds is ‘is dental school hard?’ . In this article we will discuss the ins and outs of paving your way to a career in the dental sciences. We’ll talk about what it takes and what your options are so that you can make an informed decision and get started on the path to your new career. Let’s talk about dental school!
So you want to be a dentist?
You’ve decided that you would like to be a dental practitioner. That’s great! There are a few things to consider, however. Are you intending to open a private practice or join an existing clinic, for instance? Would you like to be a general practitioner or would you like to specialize in something? A career in dentistry can mean a number of things beyond simple tooth cleaning. You’ll be repairing teeth, correcting smiles, maybe even diagnosing early oral cancer. If you are willing to put in the time, however, this can be a rewarding and lucrative career for you. So first, let’s talk about specializing.
What specialty pays the most?
This is going to depend on a lot of things. Private practice is likely going to be the most lucrative but it also depends on how many patients you intend to see every day. Also, are you going to be a general practitioner or a specialist of some sort? For instance, general practitioners may earn an average of $145,000 per year, whereas a specialist, such as an orthodontist, may earn around $185,000 per year. While specializing is going to add to the number of years you will need to go to school the pay bump is significant so this is something to consider.
In general you are looking at a lot of school. First you will at least need your Bachelors degree and following this, you are generally looking at 4 stressful more years of college in order to get your doctorate to practice general dentistry. If you decide to specialize then you are generally looking at another 2-6 years of college depending on the specialty which you select. This is going to take dedication on your part but is quite doable if you are willing to ‘do the time’. Once you have earned your degree then it doesn’t stop. You need to understand that most dentists work full time. Dental emergencies can and do occur at odd hours
“You need to understand that most dentists work full time.”
and there is another consideration: your student debt. Dental education does not come cheaply. The average dental student has invested about $250,000 in their education, some as high as $500,000. Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll never be getting any rest but you need to understand that your first years as a dentist will likely be rather busy ones.
Does it matter what Major I took before dental school?
Actually, no. The Bachelor’s degree is the pre-requisite, however, whatever you majored in is fine. That said, if you are looking to be a dentist and haven’t earned your Bachelors degree yet then you should considered majoring in a Science degree that fits in with your career plan as a dentist. If you have already earned your Bachelors and your Major is unrelated to this, that is still okay, but a Science major is going to give you a bit of a ‘head start’ in progressing towards a career in dentistry.
How do I find the right dental school for me?
This is going to depend on your specific needs and requirements, however, initial considerations are going to things such as:
- Available programs/activities – Does this school provide any special programs or activities that might be of interest to you in regards to your curiosity and specialty? It is worth the time it takes to tour a dental school that you wish to attend as you may learn a number of things much more easily than even reading about it online.
- Location – Are you going to need to move or is there a school that you like which is close enough to allow you to still live cheaply or at home with your parents? Cost of living for the city and state which you choose to get your education in will need to be researched in advance so that you know what you are getting into. You don’t want to accept admittance and then find out that you’ll need to work 2 jobs to keep an apartment as well, so plan ahead.
- Tuition – Tuition varies from school to school and you’ll want to make sure that you know the bottom line before you commit to a particular school. A higher price doesn’t necessarily guarantee a better education but if the name of the school is well-known enough then you are also adding to the ‘repute’ of your learning. You’ll need to decide if this is worth it.
- Opportunities – Perhaps the school that you have decided on allows you to intern at a famous dental clinic or will allow you to take a course from a dental expert whom you admire? The opportunity for an excellent internship can help your skill and confidence immensely so this is an important consideration.
In this article we have discussed the difficulties and considerations that go into selecting a dental school so that you can enter a career in the dental sciences. It is a long road ahead of you but a lucrative one which you can take pride in. If you are serious about pursuing this then we wholly recommend that you schedule a tour of your nearest dental school. No article can paint you a picture quite like the live experience. Let them show you around and give you some firsthand experience so that you can get a taste of your future in dentistry!