How Long Does Dental School Take?

With the possibility of getting a six-figure annual salary and having excellent job prospects in the next few years, becoming a dentist is certainly one career that those who are interested in caring for teeth and gums will find is worth striving for. Before you can become a dentist, you will need to undergo extensive educational preparation so he can perform the procedures safely and effectively.

After high school, dental school approximately takes eight years to complete. A high school graduate will need to take a bachelor’s degree which takes about four years to finish before he can go to dental school. The formal study of dentistry takes another four years to finish. Graduates of a general dentistry course don’t need formal training after dental school. Those who intend to specialize in any of the fields of dentistry will have to undergo postdoctoral training. This takes anywhere from two to four years to complete.

While formal dental training starts only in dental school, the educational preparation for an aspiring dentist actually starts in high school. Taking up courses in science, such as biology, anatomy and chemistry, as well as math, would help prepare one for a rigorous college undergraduate program. While there is no specific bachelor’s degree requirement to go into dental school, admission generally requires the student to get at least two semesters of general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, general physics and calculus courses.

Generally, it is better to work towards an undergraduate degree in a science field which will provide the student with the necessary training in anatomy, pharmacology and nutrition, among others. These programs will give the background a dental student needs in the rigorous program he is apt to encounter in dental school.

For those who are really sure that they are going to become dentists one day, taking up a bachelor’s degree in pre-dentistry studies is another option since this has already put together the necessary courses that will prepare them for dental school. Another route that can be taken for those who are really certain that they want to become dentists is through an accelerated dental program. Instead of eight years to finish dental school, this program allows a student to become a dentist in seven years by combining both undergraduate studies and formal dental school.

Aspiring dentistry students need to take the Dental Acceptance Test (DAT) in their junior year in college. A high DAT score coupled with a high GPA will increase one’s chances of getting accepted into the highly-competitive applications process of dental schools.

After passing dental school, general dentists have already completed their educational training. Those who wish to specialize in any of the nine fields of dentistry will need to undergo more years in school. The nine specialties approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) are dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics. To specialize in any of these nine fields, graduates must obtain postdoctoral education which lasts from two to four years. Some specialties may require an additional residency program which lasts for a couple of years.

All dental school graduates must have a license before they can practice the profession. To do so, they would need to pass written and practical tests. Dentists who specialize in a particular field may have to pass a special exam in their state so they can practice their dental specialty.

Career Spotlight: Dentist

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