Preparing for a Career in Dentistry
"Dentistry is the branch of the healing arts and sciences devoted to maintaining the health of the teeth, gums, and other hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity and adjacent structures. A dentist is a scientist and clinician dedicated to the highest standards of health through prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions." (ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, 45th ed., p 5)
Dentists diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases, injuries, and malformations of the teeth and mouth. They can improve a patient’s appearance by using cosmetic dental procedures, perform surgical procedures such as implants, tissue grants and extractions; educate patients; teach future dentists and dental hygienists; and perform research. The undergraduate course requirements are similar to those for medical school; however, it is important that a potential applicant looks at the requirements for each specific school. Applicants must take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) to apply.
The majority of the over 175,000 practicing dentists are general practitioners. Most have a solo practice with an average of five employees. There are no differences between the Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S) degree and the Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree, which are awarded after four years of graduate study. Those dentists not in general practice are in one of nine dental specialties, which require additional education after the D.M.D. or D.D.S. These are: orthodontic and dentofacial orthopedics (treatment of problems related to dental development); oral and maxillofacial surgery (disease, injuries and defects in the jaw and related structures); endodontics (diseases of the pulp and other dental tissues); periodontics (diseases that affect the oral mucous membranes and other soft tissues that surround and support the teeth); pediatric dentistry; prosthodontics (replacement of missing natural teeth); oral and maxillofacial pathology (diagnostic and consultative biopsy services); dental public health; and oral and maxillofacial radiology.
Dentistry usually provides an excellent income (top 5% among U.S. citizens) with time for a personal life. Many dentists enjoy owning their own practices and the basic business aptitude and the ability to manage and supervise others is required.
Most Wooster students enter dental school after four years of undergraduate education, but the Seven-Year Dual Degree Predental/Dental Program in cooperation with Case Western Reserve University is another option.