What is Dentistry?
Like other high-profile medical careers, dentistry combines science and technology with a people-centered approach to making patients feel better physically and emotionally. By helping people maintain and improve their quality of life, dentists are an invaluable asset to their community. Dentistry also offers excellent opportunities for professional and financial growth: Dentists' income equals or surpasses the average income of physicians, lawyers, and engineers. Overall, dentists are ranked within the top 5% of U.S. family income.
*Dentistry is one of the most trusted and ethical professions in America.
*Most dentists work between four and five days a week, allowing flexibility to balance their professional and personal lives.
*The majority of dentists seldom have evening and weekend calls; therefore, they set and maintain regular hours.
*Most dentists own their own practice, allowing them the freedom to be their own bosses, working alone with a small staff.
*Dental income is in the top 3% in the country.
Preparing for a Dental Education
Before making a decision to become a dentist, find out about the profession. Job shadow or volunteer at your family dentist's office, or visit a dental specialist such as an orthodontist or pediatric dentist's office. Find out if there are any programs for high school or college students at nearby dental schools.
While in high school, get a broad exposure to math and science; enroll in college preparatory course such as chemistry, biology and algebra.
Contact several dental schools and find out about the school's specific admission requirements. A counselor or advisor who is knowledgeable about the health professions can assist you with dentistry career information. Ask about the courses you should be taking and other admission information. Many science or pre-dental clubs are available to offer additional information on dental careers.
It is recommended that students take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) a year prior to seeking admission to dental school. This computerized test measures general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information and perceptual ability. Information on the Dental Admission Test is available at http://www.ada.org/prof/ed/testing/dat.asp.
Applying to Dental School
Admissions committees review credentials such as academic qualifications, the results from the Dental Admissions Test (DAT), grade point average (GPA), information from letters of recommendation, personal interviews and dental office shadowing experiences. Keep in mind that these are general admissions criteria and other admission requirements can vary from school to school. The following are links to the five California dental schools: USC, UOP, UCLA, Loma Linda, UCSF
Apply for admission at least a year in advance of the planned enrollment date. All California dental schools participate in the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS). For a fee, students can subscribe to this service and complete a single application to apply to multiple dental schools. An online application to the California schools can be completed at http://aadsas.adea.org.
So What Does Dental School Really Look Like?
A doctorate degree in dentistry usually requires four years of study, though Pacific has a unique four year curriculum that is completed in three calendar years. Schools award either a degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) (there is no difference between the two degrees). Additional postgraduate training is required to practice as a dental specialist, such as orthodontist or periodontist.
Year one and two: Studies begin with classroom and laboratory instruction in basic health sciences (including anatomy, biochemistry, histology, microbiology, pharmacology, and physiology) with an emphasis on dental aspects. Students learn the basic principles of oral diagnosis and treatment, may practice on manikins and models, and may begin treating patients later in the second year.
Year three and four: Students treat patients under the supervision of licensed dental faculty. Practice management courses include instruction in effective communication skills, the use of allied dental personnel and business management.
Getting a License: All states require dentists to be licensed to practice. In order to obtain a license one must graduate from a U.S. dental school accredited by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation and pass written and practical examinations.
Financing Dental School
Dental education is a good investment. It compares favorably with that of other health care professionals. Most dental students cover educational expenses through loan programs, scholarships and grants. Financial aid officers at dental schools can provide information about students loan opportunities.
Why Does Dentistry Need Me?
Only 8% of California dentists are from African American, Hispanic, or Native American communities when these groups constitute 40% of California's population. Dentistry needs you more than ever! The Dental Pipeline program, funded by the California Endowment, is changing the face of dental education and dental practice by helping its dental schools recruit more disadvantaged candidates, develop culturally sensitive oral health professionals, and extend high-quality dental services to underserved urban and rural communities.