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Dentist: Salary, How to Become a Dentist, Ratings, Colleges

What does Dentist do?

The question “what is a dentist” is not a common one as many people know what a dentist does in a general sense: They care for and treat a person’s teeth and gums. But the answer to a question like “what does a dentist do,” is far more complicated than the simple explanation above. It’s true that a dentist examines a person’s teeth and gums and will make any necessary diagnosis of existing conditions. The dentist is one trained to identify malformations in the gums and teeth, injuries, and diseases. Once the dentist identifies a condition or issue, most dentists can treat the existing condition if it is treatable and they have trained in dentistry necessary for treatment.

The dentist is one who will provide treatment to ensure a patient has excellent oral hygiene. The candidate who works as a dentist is trained to deal with the pulp, nerve, and tissues within teeth.  The goal is to keep teeth healthy and to repair them if issues arise.  The patient’s goal is to retain their teeth for a lifetime. When this is not possible for reason of injury, trauma, disease, or any other reason, the dentist can create appliances for the patient to wear in place of missing teeth. Some dentists learn how to implant teeth in the jawbone as well.

The most basic job of a dentist is tooth examination, cleaning, and flossing.  Dentists also repair broken teeth and fill in existing cavities to prevent their enlargement and more tooth destruction.  They not only treat conditions affecting the gums, tongue, mouth, and teeth, they also educate others on appropriate care of the teeth and gums.  Such education includes teaching others how to clean the teeth and the proper foods to eat to ensure tooth integrity over the long term.

Dentists receive training so they can learn to remove any decay in a tooth and to fill in the hole (cavity) left from the drilling out of the existing damage.  The filling serves to replace the damaged tooth and prevents further decay. The dentist will fix a fractured tooth or one that is cracked, and, if necessary, can remove teeth that are too damaged to repair.  The dentist is also someone who will help a person whiten their teeth with the application of whitening agents and sealants.

If a treatment will prove painful for the patient, a dentist receives training so they can offer local anesthetics so the patient can endure the dental procedure. In the event there is an infection present in the mouth, tooth, tongue or jaw, the dentist can prescribe medications for pain and antibiotics to fight the condition.

Dentists perform x-rays on patients so they can view the jawbone, teeth, the roots of teeth, and the condition of the gums.  The dentist uses X-rays during the diagnostic stage of a dental visit.  The dentist also uses specific materials to make models of patient’s mouths so that such models can ensure the perfect and appropriate fit of dental appliances.  In addition to X-ray machines, the dentist will receive training on how to use computers, digital scanners, lasers, scalpels, brushes, forceps, probes, mouth mirrors, and drills.

Often, the dentist must oversee those working jobs of an administrative nature.   The dentist is, therefore, the boss or manager of dental hygienists, receptionists, administrative assistants, and laboratory technicians.  If the dentist decides to work in a private office, they will need to track the business records and care for necessary tax documentation. They may handle bookkeeping tasks on their own or hire an accountant to do so.

Who is Dentist?

Dentists are people who work in the field of medicine dealing with the health and care of the mouth and teeth. The dentist job description is diverse.  They can be specialists in the field or general dentists.  If the dentist chooses a specialty they might work as prosthodontics, periodontics, Pediatric dentist, dentofacial orthopedics, orthodontics, and oral or maxillofacial surgeons. They might also work as oral and maxillofacial radiologists or pathologists. Some dentists specialize in public health education.

Dentists undergo schooling for a period of four years as they pursue a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college. If they undertake a specialty, then additional accreditation and training is necessary.  When the candidate finishes schooling they earn a DMD or DDS degree. With the education they receive they qualify for a position in the field of dentistry.

Dentist Job Description

Dentist Job Description

Dentists treat more than teeth. They treat the gums, mouth, jaw, and deal with malformations or injuries.  They diagnosis a patient’s condition and plan out an appropriate treatment.  They receive training to identify conditions, fix broken teeth, and they apply sealants to increase the longevity of teeth. They also help in straightening teeth and repairing under or overbites.

Cosmetic dentistry is a field in which the dentist seeks to help a patient maintain a healthy and attractive smile.  This field might require making molds, dental appliances, and offering whitening treatments.  They will also teach patients how to floss, brush, and care for the teeth and gums. Dentists teach patients about fluoride and its safe use and on proper nutrition to ensure strong, healthy teeth.

Dentist Duties and Tasks

The dentist’s duties will differ, depending on specialty and the condition they are treating. Some of the things they are responsible for include:

  • The examination of the condition of teeth, the gums, tongue, mouth interior, lips, jaw, and throat.
  • The provision of oral diagnostic services.
  • The provision of oral treatments including the care of malformations, injuries, and diseases.
  • Patient education about oral hygiene.
  • Administering local anesthetics to minimize pain.
  • Prescribing medication to treat conditions and pain.
  • The use of diagnostic equipment.
  • Communication with the patient.
  • Overseeing dental hygienists and administrative assistants.

Skills Required

A dentist can make more money when they have a specifics skill set.  Some skills that a dentist can benefit from having include:

  • The proper use of safety equipment including glasses, gloves, and masks to prevent the spread of diseases or infectious conditions.
  • Anesthetics administration.
  • Oral examination
  • X-ray equipment use and familiarity with radiology.
  • The use of surgical tools, dental appliances, hand instruments, and air turbines.
  • Design appliances like dentures, bridges, and space maintainers.
  • Root canal procedures.
  • Diseased tissue removal.
  • Staffing and employment handling.
  • Sealant and fluoride applications.
  • Word Processing Software
  • Windent SQL software
  • Microsoft Office Suite Use
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Henry Schein Dentrix software
  • DentiMax software
  • AlphaDent software
  • Accounting software use

Working Conditions

Dentist Working Conditions

Most professionals in the field of dentistry work for themselves. They are responsible for developing their practice.  The work is a full-time endeavor. They will have to hire secretaries and dental hygienists to help in the office. Sometimes several dentists work together in one location as a group effort.

In 2014, more than 151,000 dentists were working in the field of dentistry. Earnings will differ and depend on location, specialty, and the amount of time a dentist works.  Years in practice contribute to the amount a dentist makes annually.  The job is usually a full-time effort, and some dentists work on weekends to meet the needs of their patients.

How Much do Dentist Make?

What a dentist makes annually is something that differs significantly from one dentist to another. Speciality, location, years in the industry, and private versus group practice are just some of the things influencing dentist salary. How much do dentists make? The national average is around $131,000. The salary can range from $73,496.00 to $216,520.00 a year. The latter figure includes bonuses, profit sharing, or commissions. Bonuses range from $705.00 a year to nearly $50,000.00.  Profit sharing ranges from roughly $2,000.00 to $209,000.  Commissions can equal up to $10,000.00.

An entry-level dentist working one to five years makes around $120,000.00.  Those who enter their mid-career and work five to ten years in the field make about $137,000.00. Those who work ten to 20 years in the field earn about $147,000.000.  Those in their late career make a base salary of around $155,000.00 or more.

If working in Denver, Colorado, the candidate makes 31% more than the national average with a median pay over $40,700.00 higher at $171,555.00 a year.  Those who choose to work in San Antonio Texas make almost $19,900.00 more than the national average with a salary of $150,696.00. If working in Seattle, Washington, the pay is 15% higher than the national average. Thus, the dentist makes about $19,150.00 more with a yearly pay of $150,000.00.  Those dentists working in Portland, Oregon make 6% more which is about $8,500.00 for a total salary of $139,355.00 a year. Both Los Angeles and Boston are places where dentists make 3% more than the national average with a median pay of $134,517.00.

Entry-LevelMid-CareerExperienced
$120,000$137,000$147,000

Dentist Employment

Dentist Employment

The dentists working in the field today have different levels of experience. About nine percent have less than a year on the job.  Another 36 percent have one to four years of experience. Sixteen percent of dentists have five to nine years of experience. There are 17 percent of dentists with ten to 19 years of work experience. Finally, 23 percent of dentists have over 20 years of experience in this field of medicine.

Roughly 58 percent of dentists have medical insurance. Around 48 percent have dental coverage. Roughly 29% dentists have vision coverage. There are 33% of dentists that have no insurance coverage at all.

Looking at the jobs from 2010 until 2014 reveals a steady increase in jobs all four years.  From 2010 to 2011, the number of jobs went from 87,700 to 90,950.  From 2011 to 2012, the jobs increase up to 109,570. In 2013 there’s another increase with the jobs up to 112,300. Then, in 2014, there were 115,390 jobs.  At a glance, the jobs seem to go up at least a few thousand each year. The demand for dentists is on the rise.

Year20102011201220132014
Jobs87,70090,950109,570112,300115,390

Gender Distribution

With the gender distribution, there is 59 percent of dentistry jobs belonging to men. Women fill the remaining 41% of jobs.  Nearly fifty years ago, males filled all the dental positions in the field in the US. There were few if any female dentists at all. To compare the percentages today, it becomes clear that women are fast entering the field of dentistry and are catching up to the males in terms of active work in this sector.  At the same time, in the 70s, about 50% of dentists were women in Greece, and one third were female in France, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.  Today, those students enrolling in accredited dental schools are divided evenly with 50 percent males and 50 percent females.

Civil rights movements and the liberation of women during the 1960s and 70s are in part the reason behind the growth of women in the field throughout the last fifty years.  Studies reveal the entrance of women in the field is expected to continue, as women have more role models working in the industry and greater access to education opportunities.

How to Become a Dentist?

How to Become Dentist?

So, the next logical question is how to become a dentist.  The answer to the question will involve some pointers on available dentist colleges and the intense dentist education requirements a candidate must fulfil to be eligible for such a position.  The education of the candidate looking to work in dentistry is ongoing too.  There are continual advances in the field the dentist must know to remain viable in the workforce.

Dentist Education Requirements

All dentists require licensing from the state they reside and work in and these requirements fall under different regulations. The requirements are determined on a state-by-state basis. To be eligible for licensing at all, the candidate has to attend an accredited school. Both written and practical exams follow one’s education.

While pursuing a bachelor’s in science degree, students can take the DAT – Dental Admission Test. The student is eligible for such a class once they reach their junior year in college.  The competition for entry into accredited schools is tough.  The test scores along with teach recommendations, interviews, and grade point averages all factor into a student’s eligibility to enter a program in a qualifying college or university.

There are three degrees a candidate can pursue. A Doctor of Medical Dentistry or DMD; a Doctor of Dental Medicine or DDM, and a Doctor of Dental Surgery or DDS. In 2015, more than 60 dental schools were accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.  Additional schooling and certification is required for any of the existing dental specialties.  The candidate can expect to have to complete a two to four-year length residency working in the field they want to specialize in when they are out of training.  If the candidate is practicing general dentistry only, then no more school is required.  If a student graduates and wants to teach dentistry they need another two to five years of additional experience and training. Some dentists choose to teach dentistry on a part time basis. Many will supervise candidates who are learning dentistry techniques in dental school clinical settings.

After schooling a written and practical examination is the next step for the person on the path of becoming a dentist.  This test is the National Board Dental Exams.  Those candidates who have taken on a specialty must gain licensure in the field of their study.  A special examination might follow a lengthy residency.

Dentist Colleges

There are many fine schools to choose from when one is seeking to pursue a career path as a dentist. Here you will find a listing of the top ten colleges to attend to earn a degree in dentistry or to get your academic career started. All the schools are located within the United States.

  1. Los Angeles School of Dentistry, California
  2. San Francisco School of Dentistry, California
  3. Michigan School of Dentistry
  4. North Carolina School of Dentistry
  5. College of Dentistry (NYU)
  6. Health Sciences School of Dentistry, Washington
  7. Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine
  8. College of Dental Medicine, Columbia University
  9. Florida College of Dentistry
  10. Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine

Major Subjects

When a student is still in High School they should take math, anatomy, biology, physics, and chemistry courses. The coursework a dentist must consider includes classes like biology, and chemistry. It is best these courses are undertaken before entering dentistry school.  Many colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in dentistry.  There is not any major for the candidate to pursue.  Thus, the candidate has the choice of majoring in biology or some other science.

Additional coursework the candidate will face includes anatomy class, and radiology.  The candidate will have to study the techniques for giving local aesthesia and they will undertake the study or periodontics: the study of oral health and disease.  While in school, students have hands on learning encounters during clinicals.  A licensed dentist supervises students as they work.

Dentist Specializations

Dentist Specializations

General dentists take care of basic dental needs. There are also nine distinct dental specialties in which someone can focus their dental career.  The first specialty is the endodontist. This person is someone who specializes in the practice of root canals.  When someone has a root canal, the dentist removes the nerves from infected, broken, or injured teeth.  The procedure helps stop blood supply from reaching the tooth.

If the dentist works as a dental public health professional, then they teach people in the community about dental conditions, treatment, and prevention of such diseases.  Then there are oral and maxillofacial surgeons and radiologists.  The surgeon is professional who operates on neck, gums, teeth, jaws, and mouth.  They perform surgically-related repairs including the removal of wisdom teeth, impacted teeth, and fixing cleft palate and lip conditions.  Meanwhile, the radiologists capture images of the head and neck in diagnosis any problems requiring treatment.

Periodontists treat the gums and bone supporting the teeth. The dentist might choose to be a periodontist too. This person knows how to handle conditions affecting the bones and gums.  Oral pathologists are those who identify specific diseases related to the mouth like ulcers, bumps, cancer, and other conditions. Prosthodontists are specialists in tooth replacement. When a person has missing teeth, the Prosthodontist puts implants, bridges, crowns, and other fixtures in a patient’s mouth as well as dental appliances like dentures.

An oral pathologist is a person who receives training so they can identify diseases of the mouth, ulcers, bumps, and cancerous conditions in the mouth.  A Pediatric dentist is a person who specializes in treating children and others who have special needs.  The orthodontist is a type of dentist who applies dental appliances and braces when necessary.

Professional Associations of Dentists

There are many professional associations of dentists that people can turn to for educational material in dentistry or assistance on a career path as a dentist or dental specialist.  The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) proudly identifies itself as “The Voice of Dental Education.” The ADEA is the only organization in the nation with a focus on dental education and academic dentistry. The organization is happy to have over 21,000 active members, consisting of administrators, staff, faculty, and students. Members are from the United States as well as dental schools in Canada.  The organization has members working in the oral health sector, and a variety of corporations with a focus in the same industry.

The ADEA helps develops and improve dental educational programs and helps establish best practices.  The organization has programs that help in educating young children about the dentist career and education path. They also recognize excellence in the field with an awards program.  They offer student scholarships students, dental educators, and ADEA Leadership Institute Fellows Awards for Dental Schools.

Famous Dentists

There’s many famous dentists throughout history. One famous dentist among the long list is Edgar Buchanan. Edward died in 1979, but during his lifetime he was both a television and film actor as well as a dentist.  He is best known for his roles in The Beverly Hillbillies television company in the 1960s, Green Acres, and Uncle Joe Carson in the Petticoat Junction.  In the late 1920s he attended the North Pacific College School of Dentistry and earned his DDS.  He had a dental practice in Oregon and in California when he moved his family there.  When he became an actor, his wife took over the dentistry business.

Dentists FAQ

 What is the dentist career like in terms of on-the-job experiences?

The job position of dentist is a highly challenging career opportunity.  A dentist works with many different types of people. Great social skills and the ability to communicate clearly is a must.  The job can be quite stressful.  The annual salary for dentists promises the qualifying candidate a comfortable living wage, even when at entry level in the industry. There are many specializations to choose from when working as a dentist.

 What is the job outlook for dentists in the future?

The growth in the field of dentistry has been steady and will continue to grow.  Studies suggest an anticipated growth rate in this field of medicine up to 18 percent as of 2024.  The reason for the rapid growth includes a higher demand for dental treatments and services, and people demanding more cosmetic dentistry treatments. With health care access, more jobs will become available because more people will have access or oral health insurance coverage and care.

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